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Dancing Ken Hanks

He's Jived, Rocked 'n' Rolled And Fox-Trotted For Over Fifty Years And All For Charity crack

You cannot mistake Dancing Ken Hanks outrageous dwelling along Wellington Street. The façade is a painted, bright mottled effect, with his name emblazoned on the front door. If we are honest, most Cheltonian’s have a place in their hearts for an eccentric.

Any citizen, at sometime in their lives, will have encountered Dancing Ken wandering along Cheltenham High Street. He stands out from the crowd with gaudy Wild West dress, the incongruous Stetson hat with tiny union jack ear rings.

This amiable member of the Monster Raving Loony Party, is a veteran of four general elections. A frustrated prospective Member of Parliament for Cheltenham, Ken makes Hopalong Cassidy look positively conservative. And yet, inexplicably, some people still cross the road to avoid donating to his charity tin.

It goes without saying, that some sniffy residents might find Ken hard to stomach. Teenage ignoramuses have tossed bricks through his front room window and trashed his car. Regardless, if a person slips a twenty quid note or a single penny into his charity box, everybody gets the same polite response in gratitude.

Many passers-by ask – ‘Why, Dancing Ken Hanks’?

Well, for over fifty years, he has attended gigs every night spread about Cheltenham and a wider area. All in the name of a good cause. Ken has jived, fox trotted and rock’n’rolled many a night away to raise funds. Over the years, ‘old twinkle toes’ as some ladies call him, has raised over one million pounds. Even at 75 years, Ken still dances five nights a week.

Mounted on his sitting room wall, is a large monochrome photograph of Hollywood dancer, Fred Astaire, who has long been his role model. Ken’s house is packed with paraphernalia he has accumulated during a life time of fund raising.

Over a cup of tea at his home, Ken mentioned his failing sight in one eye as a result of Retina Vascular Occlusion. He is partially blind now, because he damaged his other eye as a kid. He was born in a basement near Hales Road traffic lights. Then reared in Cheltenham suburbs like, Up Hatherly and The Reddings.

He stood in the 2010 General Election as Cheltenham’s prospective Member of Parliament for the Monster Raving Loony Party. Realistic to a fault, Ken realized that his lofty ambitions to enter The House of Commons, are zilch. Not that he was garnering support from the electorate of either Tory, Labour of Liberal-Democrat colours.

Ken primarily sought the vote from people of all ages who usually feel disenfranchised from modern politics. If anything, may be in a tongue-in-cheek way, he introduced vote shy folk to the electoral system. In the past, Ken has averaged 500 votes. A substantive figure that has even put other independent candidates in his shadow.

Dancing Ken always quotes his late leader, Screaming Lord Such, the founder of the Monster Raving Loony Party. “Vote for Insanity. You know it makes Sense”. The Loony manifesto had included such well founded ideas as, clearing the streets of Cheltenham from cars, by offering free buses, paid for from the road tax. Is that such a crazy suggestion?

So you see, Ken is in politics to make a difference. The age old cliché, trotted out by the
so-called bonafide Members of Parliament. Ken reckons the House of Commons is full of ‘Ex-Factor’ failures. Prime Ministers Question Time, is the best weekly comedy show on television.

I asked Ken, how would he have felt, had Cheltenham decided to collectively vote for The Loony Party, to express their disapproval of modern politicians? He was aghast at the suggestion. But just imagine The Right Honorable Dancing Ken Hanks sitting on the benches in the House of Commons as Cheltenham’s Member of Parliament. Mr. Speaker would hardly resist calling upon the cowboy, to confront Prime Minister David Cameron with the question; “why not have 99p coins to save on change”. A policy that clearly appealed, to Ken’s agenda against conformity.

Getting away from cloud cuckoo land, Dancing Ken is known by a vast amount of Cheltonians, as a harmless do-gooder. Beneath the gaudily decorated Stetson trade mark, lurks an astute brain. Ken has devoted most of his adult life, to helping our disadvantaged citizens.

Those same people should put pen to paper, and send a letter to Buckingham Palace, suggesting a birthday honor for his charitable efforts. Despite many set backs of his own, Ken soldiers on into his sun down years. Putting himself second to those in need. As for the doubters who don’t recognize a thoroughly good egg when they see one. You might just take time out, to wonder if in some way, you have also benefitted from a hand out, raised by Dancing Ken Hanks.