The Dandelion Project

You can download a pdf of this press release here – please feel free to use it, but please make sure to include a link back. Thank you. The project’s page is here.

The Dandelion Project

Press Release: 10 March 2017, immediate effect

From a 100 mile row to multiplying eight digit numbers in his head, poet, mental health activist, and reigning Creative Thinking World Champion Dan Holloway takes on a unique challenge to discover where human limits lie.

Dan Holloway is a contradiction. He is a 45 year old overweight guy who just about holds down a middle of the road admin job while struggling with mental ill health. He is also the reigning Creative Thinking World Champion, the only person ever to win that title as well as the World Intelligence Championship. And in 2016 he ran a 100 kilometre ultramarathon and performed his poetry at the Royal Albert Hall.

At Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival in 2016.

It is exactly this kind of apparent contradiction that lies behind his latest undertaking, the Dandelion Project, a series of six challenges that sets out to confront our assumptions – about what people should, and shouldn’t be capable of doing; and about the unpredictable relationship between the needs and abilities of those living with mental ill health.

The Dandelion Project is named after Neil Gaiman’s address to London Book Fair in 2013 in which he encouraged publishers to be like dandelions scattering seeds, constantly trying new things in the hope that some will flourish. Its six challenges consist of activities that, clichés would have it, really don’t go together, mixing mind and body, left brain and right brain, strength and endurance. Dan will be competing in two World Championships at the Mind Sports Olympiad (Mental Calculation and Creative Thinking) and the UK’s most prestigious ultramarathon, the 100 kilometre Race to the Stones, and an international standard memory competition, taking part in a 100 mile indoor row, and competing at a powerlifting meet.

For the past ten years, Dan has been working with the likes of Mind, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute to promote opportunities for those with mental ill health, and earlier this year he gave Oxford University’s Mental Health Awareness Day Lecture on the benefits of endurance sport for mental health. He hopes that these challenges and the opportunities that arise from them will help to raise awareness of the contributions those with mental ill health can make to society but also, by talking frankly about his own experience, to raise awareness of the fact that those who seem to be high achievers can nonetheless accommodations and assistance in order to participate in society.

But the project is also an experiment to see exactly what happens when human beings push themselves in many different direction at once. Holloway is a regular speaker, writer, and researcher on all topics to do with creative potential, and is a campaigner on open access and for a universal basic income. He says, “I believe that making the sum of human knowledge freely available to all and ensuring that every human has the time to pursue the things they feel passionate about are two of the keys to helping humanity tackle the massive challenges it faces in the 21st century and enabling us to leave the world richer, and more secure, than we found it. What really drives me, and what I want to explore through these challenges, is how we can nude our minds and bodies in new directions to enable us to use that time and that knowledge the very best way we can.”

The challenges will be raising money for Apopo, a charity that trains rats to use smell to detect landmines, and to detect tuberculosis in samples quicker than any human doctor can. Apopo’s work played a crucial part in Mozambique being declared mine free in 2015.

For more on the Dandelion Project, visit For interviews, to feature the challenge, or to have Dan come and speak about the challenge, or about creativity or mental health, email If you are an organisation that would be interested in sponsoring this challenge, financially or by offering resources that will be needed, please also email Please note, a separate sponsor sheet will be available shortly, but for organisations to be considered for sponsorship they will need to demonstrate a commitment to ethical dealings with their workforces and supply chains, and to environmental issues.


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