In August 2018, My Swft will be proudly supporting the drivers taking part in the Lada Rally, a seven-day car race across Eastern Europe. Each team has the same objective - visit countries they've never been to before, create tales that they won’t be able to tell at family gatherings, and raise a load of money for some exceptional refugee charities.
Each car taking part has elected a leader who will be chatting to My Swft on a daily basis, letting us know roughly where they’re heading, so we can find them somewhere safe, comfortable and (hopefully) clean to stay along the way.
Ahead of the trip of a lifetime, we spoke to girl-boss Hannah Blackmore, who will be taking part herself and (again, hopefully) taking names at the finish line.
So without further ado...
MS: Hi Hannah, we're excited for the upcoming Lada Rally and look forward to helping the teams find safe havens along the way. What are you personally most looking forward to?
There are so many different things I’m looking forward to across the Lada Rally week, it’s the best adventure I’ve ever been on. I was worried that in being an organiser I wouldn’t be able to fully relax into it and enjoy it but it’s impossible not to!
Firstly, buying the cars is carnage! There are multiple teams running around two enormous second-hand car lots trying to find cars that are within budget and are going to get them from start to finish. At points, it felt like an impossible task but I can’t wait for the chaos to begin again this year.
I also love that each day you drive through places that you would probably never visit and you get to see so many incredible sites along the way. I remember last year, after having a complete nightmare at the Serbian border and being held there for hours, we finally drove through along some winding roads and as we turned a corner were faced with the most incredible view over an enormous lake, it was amazing.
And finally, the moment at the end where we hand over the cars to the refugee charities is really special. It’s only at this point that the good work that the vehicles are going to be doing really hits home.
MS: Amazing! I’m exhilarated just reading about it. You're partnering with some really interesting charities - how did you decide who to channel your support to?
From the beginning, we decided that whatever we did we wanted the Lada Rally to have a wider positive impact. In our first year, we partnered with The Worldwide Tribe, a charity started by two of my best friends (Jaz and Nils) in response to the refugee crisis. Since they started the charity I’ve been constantly inspired by their work and we all agreed that we wanted to support this further.
This year we are partnered with the Worldwide Tribe, Aniko and Open Cultural Centre – with all three charities working to tackle different elements of the multi-faceted, complex issues surrounding the refugee crisis.
These relationships have developed following last year’s rally. A friend of mine, Dan, who has devoted his life to working on the frontline in Greece introduced us to Open Cultural Centre who we donated a car to last year. Dan has also spent the last year creating his own charity, Aniko and there was no question in our minds about supporting them.
MS: They are all great charities so take note people! Back to you Hannah, how have you planned your route (if at all)? Is there anywhere your particularly excited to visit?
I’ve not yet sat down with my team to plan our route, but one place that I definitely want to go to is Montenegro, some of the teams went last year and said it was incredible. A friend of mine has recently returned from there and her photos are amazing. I’m hoping the rest of my team will share my sentiment!
MS: We can confirm, Montenegro is stunning. Be sure to shout when you get there as we can make some excellent recommendations. One of our founders has rally experience and loves talking about how hospitable locals in obscure places can be - any great tales from last year?
The teams had some brilliant moments last year, including locals working through the night to fix a car in Croatia, a Serbian border guard offering beers because he loved the idea of the rally so much and a Hungarian family asking a team in for dinner.
For me, I experienced the greatest hospitality when my team went to a Serbian refugee camp to visit a family that Jaz and Nils (founders of The Worldwide Tribe) knew. Their story is unbelievable and one of perseverance against all odds - truly humbling. I was overwhelmed by the warmth and generosity shown to us by everyone that we met as everyone offered us food, drink and somewhere comfortable to sit and chat with them. It just reiterated to me that, so often, it is those with the least that are the most generous.
MS: Too true... Finally, the finish line party - what's in store for the finishers
The finishing party last year was great as all of our ralliers get together to discuss their week of adventure! The official finish line was next to an old amphitheater in Split, where we greeted everyone with beers and took their keys from them! Everyone then got the ferry over to Hvar where, that evening, we had our award ceremony outside overlooking the sea and then on to the clubs in the busy side streets. Even a torrential rainstorm didn’t ruin the mood!
This year, after all the cars have crossed the finish line and been signed over, we have a great bar lined up in Thessaloniki (recommended by a friend living there) and are excited to get the Ouzo flowing! Technology prevailing we’ll be streaming videos and photos from the teams across the week and co-founders Andy and Oz will be pulling out their best double act performance to present our various awards in the exhibition space upstairs. After that, it’s downstairs, to party the night away!
There you have it people. The Lada Rally kicks off on the 25th August in Tallinn, Estonia, ending in Thessaloniki, Greece, 7 days later. You’ll be able to follow our own super-social media savvy Charlotte Spencer as her team makes their way through the old soviet states.