CK Goldiing is a writer, producer, presenter, photographer and general creator. In the name of convenience, he calls himself a “writer and content creator”. Ahead of his new short film, 61 Hugs, I caught up with him at the Dam House on a grey day in August. We sat outside overlooking Crookes Valley Park, he sipped on a pineapple juice and I enjoyed an early-afternoon Guinness, much to CK’s surprise.   

Goldiing admits he never set out to make a short film. This was simply another one of a series of Youtube challenges he sets out to accomplish, having previously created a series called ‘100 Musicians’, where he moved to London with the aim of professionally photographing 100 singer-songwriters, surviving from just £100 and whatever the musicians wanted to pay him. It took him six months.

61 Hugs is a much simpler concept but no less of a fascinating prospect. He set out on 8 May this year with a straightforward objective – to hug 61 strangers between his house and Sheffield City Centre. He says it’s “the first idea I’ve ever had where the initial idea is no different to the execution. There was no refining of the idea. It didn’t need refining because it was so simple.”

While simple, there’s an unpredictability which comes from the unscripted nature of the film, which creates a real energy. And it develops into a clear, completely organic narrative which unfolds in the moment. He calls it “exquisite chaos”.

“The thing that I find most exquisite about that experience is that if I’d have left my house 60 seconds earlier or later it would’ve been a completely different film.”

The route Goldiing takes in the film will be a familiar one to students. Heading down Barber Road in Crookesmoor, he walks through Crookes Valley Park, past the Arts Tower and IC, before hitting West St, Division St and onto the City Centre.

As a result, it’s likely that a high proportion of the film’s huggers were in fact students, and CK speaks highly of them. He praised the energy and multiculturalism they bring to the city and was also thankful for their impact on the film, believing young people would generally be more receptive to hugging a stranger.  

“At that age a) you’re not old and stuck in your ways and think it’s weird. And b) you’re too young to know how to say no properly [bursts into laughter] do you know what I mean? You’ve not quite yet cultivated that cynical “get fucked”. So it probably helped the film in that regard.”

He was once a student in Sheffield himself. Having already been born and raised in the city, he went on to study a Business Studies degree at Hallam, “which I regret with all my heart”, he says with a chuckle. The course didn’t offer Goldiing the creative opportunities he craved. That’s when he discovered radio, first volunteering with Hospital Broadcasting Sheffield. He felt “instantly at home.”

After more online and commercial radio, he continued to fulfill his creative needs in a number of ways: presenting and writing all sorts of content and developing his internet presence. Dig deep enough into the murky depths of Youtube and you might even find an episode of CorpTV hosted by CK himself, a career highlight no doubt.

Friends and fans have long-since wanted him to replicate some of his London-based challenges in the Steel City. As a pure creative, he’s not a fan of “going over the same territory”. But having returned to live in Sheffield last December to “reset financially” after spending some time in London, it was the perfect opportunity to finally do something on home soil.  

“I’m so happy that I did this because I’m Sheffield through and through and this, for me, shows Sheffield at its purest.”

For now his focus remains clearly on spreading the word for 61 Hugs, something he doesn’t usually do with his projects. Standard practice for CK is to make it and release it. But this time he asked himself, “does this deserve more?”

As for what the future holds, Goldiing is not slowing down. He’s fascinated by the likes of Netflix and how they are “brave and daring with the content they make”. It’s very plausible to see Goldiing dropping a six-part series on Netflix. “That’s my end game”, he says.

He’s got some ideas in the tank, including something he describes as his biggest challenge yet, which would take place in the US. What that could entail remains to be seen, but one thing you can be sure of is that it will focus on humanity, that is his obsession. It comes through in his work, 61 Hugs being a prime example.

Long after I ran out of questions, we talked about a number of extraordinary moments and people in the film. His fascination for them remains strong months after filming it, and he’s incredibly grateful too, particularly to those who declined a hug.  

“I would’ve hated that film if everybody had said yes. Nobody wants to watch the film where everyone says yes.”

The great irony is that despite his fascination of people and an instantly obvious ability to disarm people with his personality,  CKs favourite thing to do is “hang out with myself”.

That may be the case but he clearly has a talent for working with people, and in particular working with strangers. Goldiing is a unique creator and a product of the age of Youtube and social media. As he says, “there are zero barriers now. If you’re a creative person, then just go out and make it.”

Watch 61 Hugs on YouTube below. Find CK on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube as CK Goldiing.

You can also visit the film’s official website, 61hugs.com, for free downloads and exclusive interviews and videos.

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