Camden Town’s backwards walking man insists he is not acting and suffers from ‘retropulsion’
Unwitting star of viral YouTube videos says he suffers from 'retropulsion'
25 May, 2017 — By William McLennan
Michael Dickinson has been filmed by baffled YouTube users
A MAN who has repeatedly been filmed walking backwards around the streets of Camden has declared that he is “not acting” and believes it may be the result of a disease or a “bewildering” psychological condition. Michael Dickinson has captivated tourists and locals alike and several videos of him pacing backwards through busy pavements, while looking over his shoulder, have been shared online in recent months.
The 67-year-old said that he could no longer walk forwards and has self-diagnosed, with the help of Google, his condition as “retropulsion” – although the cause remains a mystery even to himself, Mr Dickinson said. “It could be psychological, or I heard somebody say it could be a disease, but I don’t feel unwell apart from that,” he added.
Mr Dickinson, who has performed in plays at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden Town and Pentameters in Hampstead, is adamant that he is not “doing it on purpose”.
“I’m not acting, I wouldn’t dream of doing it, actually. If I didn’t feel this retropulsion I would much prefer to be walking forwards,” he said. “When it first started happening it was bewildering, to say the least.”
Mr Dickinson has led a tumultuous life. While teaching English in Turkey in 2008, Mr Dickinson was arrested for allegedly insulting prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan by portraying him as a dog in a collage artwork. After 10 days’ detention, his residency permit was cancelled and he left the country, only to return several weeks later on a tourist visa, when he was arrested and put on trial.
He was acquitted, but the decision was later overturned and he was eventually deported in 2013. He then found himself sleeping on the streets of Camden Town, before spending time in squats, including the occupation of the former Hampstead police station. After being evicted in May 2014 he began sleeping in a tent in Hampstead cemetery, but, with the help of Camden’s SaferStreets Team, has since moved into a flat in Highgate after a spell at Arlington House.
Mr Dickinson said that he is regularly stopped in the street and asked to explain his walk. “Some people think it must be quite strange, I’m sure. Occasionally people in cars blow horns at me, which is dangerous, because I turn to look at them rather than where I’m going.”
Asked if he had sought medical help for his “retropulsion”, Mr Dickinson said: “I don’t really want to see a doctor, I feel they’ll just put me on some sort of medication and I would rather not be. I can deal with it and there is no law against it. “I’m careful that I had never hurt anybody, although I did hurt myself the other day when I tripped over a branch as I walked through the woods