Dance and yoga teacher Mark Davies from Godalming in Surrey has raised over £1,600 for Born Free over the last 18 months through hosting community classes and fundraising events in his local area.
Mark started dancing at the age of 13 and trained at the prestigious BRIT School of Performing Arts. His dance credits include In Our Time at the London Palladium as ‘James Bond’, CITV's My Life as A Popat and Graham Norton's Strictly Dance Fever. He has since established his own Dance and Yoga school called MLD and runs regular classes around Surrey.
“The work Born Free does is just incredible – preventing wild animal abuse, rescuing abused animals and placing them in sanctuaries - keeping wildlife in the wild!”
Mark aims to host several fundraising events each year, continuing to raise local awareness of Born Free, which is based just a few miles from where his community yoga classes take place…
Mark, you’ve put on lots of brilliant events for Born Free! What made you want to support us?
I’ve always had a love for big cats and felt that I wanted to do something to help them, but wasn’t sure how until I saw Virginia McKenna’s Back to Born Free documentary on Channel 4 - it was literally love at first sight and I knew that Born Free was the charity I wanted to raise money for! I ordered the Born Free DVD as I’d never seen it - I loved it and cried my eyes out! I was struck by the ethos of charity and my mind was made up.
Can you tell us about the community yoga events you have been running?
Through my dance and yoga school, MLD, I have created a range of Born Free classes with a theme of freedom, and a little group of regulars have attended virtually all of these classes, so we now have a Born Free yoga community! In total, I have organised 11 community classes since the start of 2017 and more are planned for the future.
Yoga is a very important part of my life - not just the teaching of yoga through my business, but my own personal yoga practice and journey. It’s about freeing the body and mind and creating harmony as much as possible around and within you. I feel that there are a lot of parallels with the work Born Free does through its wildlife conservation around the world - creating harmony by protecting the natural environment.
What has the reaction been like to the charity yoga classes?
The reaction has been phenomenal! The classes have been completely mixed ability, and a combination of regulars and new faces. It really shows that so many people still care about wildlife and the natural world – and that they enjoy the yoga too!
What is your background?
I trained as a professional dancer and I now teach yoga and dance. I got into yoga by complete accident, whilst training at the BRIT School I was so unflexible that my dance teachers were quite worried, so recommended that I take up yoga to improve my flexibility. I loved it so much because I wasn’t just getting the physical benefits – yoga gives you so much more. I personally think everyone should do yoga - if they did the world would be a different place.
I know you’ve put on some other fundraising events for Born Free too – can you tell us more?
In March last year I hosted a Britney Spears dance workshop. The workshop was packed and the dancers were on fire! It was so much fun and in an hour we raised £127.
This year, I decided to do something different - a cake and coffee morning! Everyone who knows me knows I’m not a great baker, but I was determined, and with the help of my friends, family and Born Free yoga community, I went ahead and did it this March! During the two hour sale we raised over £300 –that’s a lot of cake and coffee! I baked vegan flapjacks and despite my brother-in-law taking the mick out of them, they also went!
Do you have a favourite Born Free project or animal?
I’m huge big cat fan so currently I love the #LongLiveTheKing appeal. I’m particularly fond of the work being done at Shamwari - my dream is to one day go there and see it for myself. I am also very interested in Born Free’s work to raise awareness of the exotic pet trade, and the stance Born Free is taking on trophy hunting. It is quite clear to me that education and getting communities involved is the key to protecting wildlife. People and nature must live together as the planet seems to be getting smaller as the human population increases.
Do you have any more events in the pipeline?
My next event is the MLD Show at the Capitol Theatre in Horsham on 23rd June - £1 from every ticket sold will go to Born Free. I’m also continuing to donate £1 from every ticket sold for my MILD Yoga and Yin classes in Godalming. After the show, I will be planning my next Born Free events so hopefully there will be more to come as I want to continue supporting this incredible charity’s work!
How can people find out more about your events and support you?
I have a page dedicated to Born Free on my website www.markleedavies.com which has information about all my events, so keep an eye on that! I also post updates on my JustGiving page. Please do come along and support us if you can, as the more money we make the more Born Free can do.