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Juan Mann, who started the Free Hugs movement, seen at Pitt Street Mall, Sydney, Australia, 2006

The Free Hugs Campaign is a social movement involving individuals who offer hugs to strangers in public places.[1] The campaign in its present form was started in 2004 by an Australian man known only by the pseudonym "Juan Mann".[2] The campaign became famous internationally in 2006 as the result of a music video on YouTube by the Australian band Sick Puppies, which is one of the most popular on the site, having been viewed over 50,000,000 times. The hugs are meant to be random acts of kindness - selfless acts performed just to make others feel better. International Free Hugs Day is celebrated on the first Saturday of July.



A woman holding up a Spanish-language Free Hugs sign in Buenos Aires
'FREE HUGS' well received in Chile

The Free Hugs campaign in its present form was started by Juan Mann on June 30, 2004, when he commenced giving out hugs in the Pitt St Mall in central Sydney. In the months prior to this, Mann had been feeling depressed and lonely as a result of numerous personal difficulties. However, a random hug from a stranger made an enormous difference, with Mann stating that "...I went out to a party one night and a completely random person came up to me and gave me a hug. I felt like a king! It was greatest thing that ever happened." [2]

Mann carried the now iconic "FREE HUGS" sign from the outset. However on his first attempt in his hometown, where he returned to find that he was the only person he knew, as his friends and family had moved away, he had to wait fifteen minutes before an elderly lady came up to him and gave him a hug.[3]

Initial distrust of Juan Mann's motives eventually gave way to a gradual increase of people willing to be hugged, with other huggers (male and female) helping distribute them. In October 2004 police told them they must stop, as Mann had not obtained public liability insurance worth $25 million for his actions. Mann and his companions used a petition to attempt to convince authorities that his campaign should be allowed to continue without the insurance. His petition reached 10,000 signatures. He submitted it and was allowed to continue giving free hugs.[4]

FREE HUGS, in Hibiyakoen, Tokyo Prefecture.
'FREE HUGS', Hyde Park, London.

Mann befriended Shimon Moore, lead singer for the Sick Puppies, shortly after commencing his campaign, and over a two-month period in late 2004 Moore recorded video footage of Mann and his fellow huggers. Moore and his band moved to Los Angeles in March 2005 and nothing was immediately done with the footage. Meanwhile Mann continued his campaign throughout 2005 and 2006 by appearing in Pitt St Mall in Sydney most Thursday afternoons.

In mid 2006 Mann's grandmother died, and in consolation Moore made the music video using the footage he had shot in 2004 to send to Mann as a gift, stating in an interview that, "I sent it to him on a disc as a present and I wrote down 'This is who you are'."[4] The video was later uploaded onto YouTube where it is now one of the most viewed videos on the site, with over 55 million views as of January 2010.[5]

On October 30, 2006, Mann was invited by Oprah Winfrey to appear on her show Oprah after her producer's doctor saw the Free Hugs video on YouTube. Juan Mann made an appearance outside her studio that morning, offering free hugs to the crowd waiting to see the taping of that day's episode. Oprah's camera crews caught several people in the audience hugging Mann as the morning progressed.[6]

On October 23, 2007, Juan Mann announced his residential address online and offered an open invitation to anyone to come over and chat on-camera as part of his 'open-house project'. Mann hosted 80 guests over 36 days. On November 25, 2007, Mann's landlord threatened him with eviction, so he launched an online appeal.[7]

On December 25, 2007, Juan Mann made his e-book "The Illustrated Guide to Free Hugs" available as a free download. On November 22, 2008, at YouTube Live Sick Puppies did a performance of "All the Same" while Juan Mann gave hugs to crowd members. On February 13, 2009 a Free Hug Day took place (February 13 near Valentine's Day).

On August 23, 2009, "Juan Mann" announced via his Facebook page linking to an article on his blog that he is "retiring" from Free Hugs, and has invited any interested party to take over the role - though he stresses that he does not own any rights relating to the Free Hugs concept, nor any income, and that there is nothing stopping anyone from undertaking the activity at any time, any place in the world. The successful applicant will take over the responsibilities of maintaining the Free Hugs website and forum, as well as any other "official" Free Hugs presence Juan presently maintains online.

Official website

A website that is generally recognized as the official site of the free hugs campaign, The Official Home of the Free Hugs Campaign, was launched in mid 2007. This site enables those involved in the campaign to better organize themselves and coordinate their efforts. Many initiatives resulted from these efforts. For example, on the websites forum (hosted on Dragon Arts), those involved in the campaign called for an annual International Free Hugs Day. Juan Mann declared that the day would fall on the first Saturday following June 30 each year; this being the first date that Juan ever offered free hugs in Pitt Street Mall, Sydney in 2004. The first International Free Hugs Day was July 7, 2007, the second on July 5, 2008 and the third was on July 4, 2009 (but see above re Valentine's Day).


As giving hugs to strangers helps spreads virus, it is a pandemic risk.

In a 2010 press release, the advertising agency 'DLSHS' claimed to have launched the 'Free Hugs' viral video [8], despite the fact the company didn't even exist when the video was launched.[9]

Publicity and expansion

Free Hugs in Sydney, August 2004
  • In October 2006, a college student, Yu Tzu-wei, began a campaign in Taipei to "hug everyone in Taiwan"[10]
  • In October 2006, a Free Hugs Campaign began in Tel Aviv, Israel.[11]
  • In late October 2006, several Free Hugs Campaigns were organized in a number of cities in Italy [12]
  • On October 27, 2006, students Steve Loftus, Mark Wonnacott and Jeff Jones from Illinois-based McKendree University were featured in news media, including, for giving free hugs before game five of the World Series in front of Busch Stadium.[13]
  • On November 6, 2006, a group of eleven people led by a twenty-four year old man named 'Baigu'(白骨) tried the same campaign in Shanghai, only to be detained for one hour for not having a permit to hold a gathering in a public place.[14]
  • On November 10, 2006, A Free Hugs event in Boulder, Colorado was covered by local media.[15]
  • On November 18, 2006 Geneva Online, an online community, organized the first Free Hugs event in Geneva, Switzerland.[16]
  • On November 22, two Korean boy students organized a Free Hugs Campaign outside the Ngee Ann City shopping mall along Orchard Road, Singapore. In a novel bid to spread the festive cheer, they had this campaign for the following consecutive Saturdays.[17] As well as Mission: Singapore, a Singaporean version of ImprovEverywhere, promoting the campaign in conjunction with "Have a Heart 2009".
  • In December 2006 the Students Union at the University of Limerick in Ireland ran a Free Hugs Campaign for their students during a week of study in an attempt to raise morale on campus. The story made the local newspapers. A similar campaign was arranged during their RAG week the following March in order to raise money for charity.
  • In late 2006 a Free Hugs Campaign commenced in Belgium with events on December 22 and December 23 in Antwerp and on December 30 in Ghent.[18][19]
  • On January 28, 2007, a group of undergraduates who met on the PTT Bulletin Board System started a Free Hugs movement in the Kaohsiung, Taiwan Urban Spotlight Arcade[20]
  • In March 2007, as part of an initiative to combat discrimination against people infected with AIDS or HIV, the French Government will call on its citizens to embrace strangers who hoist signs in the street offering free hugs.[21]
A student group part of 'FREE HUGS' Chile
  • On April 14, 2007, Portuguese waitress Sara Viera living in Newcastle Upon-Tyne, England was reported on both BBC News and local press[22] to be giving Free Hugs in the streets of Newcastle City Centre.
  • In 2008, noted music director, Oscar award winner and Golden Globe winner from India, A. R. Rahman, along with percussionist Sivamani created a song titled Jiya Se Jiya (Heart to Heart), (released through Universal Music) which was inspired by the Free Hugs Campaign in Mumbai started by Vinit Mehta and promoted it through a video shot in various cities in India.[23]
  • In December 2008, Quentin Mosimann, a talented French-Swiss writer-composer-singer, took this "Free hugs" movement up in his video clip "Il y a je t'aime et je t'aime", a song about the different meanings of “I love you”.
  • In February 2009, a free hug offer startled downtown Toronto shoppers[24]
  • On 7 February 2009, a group of friends from Malta organised a Free Hugs campaign in the main street of the capital city (Valletta) Free Hugs in Valletta
  • In July 2009, a Jordanian radio station celebrated International Free Hugs Day by creating the first Free Hugs video from an Arab country[25]
  • In August 2009, in Norway Free Hugs were offered by the Red Cross Youth in the yearly market "Steinkjermartnan".[26]
  • On 12 February 2010, In Santo Domingo,Dominican Republic a group of students from the "Colegio Dominicano De La Salle" (Dominican De La Salle School)(Seniors from Prae Stella), organised a Free Hugs Campaign on their school.


See also


External links

Other countries

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