Richard Branson helps interns to rise to Chuckle Brothers' balloon challenge

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Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson has agreed to lend a hot air balloon to two enterprising interns after an eye-catching request from the duo.

Sir Richard said he "couldn't resist" responding to Holly Hunter and Miriam Pick's request to borrow a balloon for a challenge set for them by the Chuckle Brothers.

The bizarre request from the two 24-year-olds included a drawing of Sir Richard's head as a pigeon.

In his hand-written reply, Sir Richard praised the way Holly and Miriam had garnered support with messages plastered around Shoreditch, London.

Writing on the Virgin blog, Sir Richard said their campaign reached him on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands.

He wrote: "They decided to combine social media with good old street marketing to get my attention.

"They wrote me a note, and stuck it up on some posts around Shoreditch, London.

"Their open letter, complete with a doodle of yours truly as a pigeon and a #BalloonPleaseBranson hashtag, reached me here in the BVI.

"I couldn't resist replying, with a picture of my own and some puns for good measure."

The response included a picture of a feline Sir Richard to "put a cat among the pigeons".

Holly and Miriam's balloon hunt began a week ago when they volunteered to complete a presentation on double acts as part of their internship at creative design agency Anomaly.

They approached the Chuckle Brothers for a challenge which would form the basis of their talk to some 70 staff.

Initially, they tweeted their message to Sir Richard, including the pigeon portrait, but didn't attract much support. Then they decided to print out some 200 flyers to garner more attention.

And it worked. They noticed the first tweet from Sir Richard just 30 minutes before their presentation was due.

Holly said: "We thought someone was joking, then we realised. We leapt around then realised we had half-an-hour to change the presentation."

They are now in touch with Virgin Experience and hope to invite the Chuckle Brothers to watch any eventual flight.

Miriam added: "We're still a little bit in shock but are very, very grateful."

Holly said: "We can't quite believe ourselves."

Before the reply from Sir Richard, Holly and Miriam had made their own hot air balloon out of a bin bag, cocktail sticks, and a birthday candle. It flew for just over a second.