There is nothing else like it. Merry folk in animal print onesies and high visibility vests united by common cause camaraderie, all carousing on cardboard boxes on a bitterly cauld November night and shouting ‘one more tune!’
It’s been a week since I unleashed my inner DJ at the Rock Trust’s Big Sleep Out – yet I am still buzzing.
The Sleep Out does not claim to recreate homelessness. What it does is to drum up awareness by people giving one night, sleeping on cardboard, on a cold concrete surface, struggling with the noises of the city and coping the next day with barely any sleep.
I was so thrilled to be out of the house on a Friday night after dark (new mum alert) and overly excited to don the thermals for the silent disco that I rushed to get in a pint. After two sips I realised the error of my ways and switched to tea.
From the start the Sleep Out teams kept spirits high. A heart wrenching acoustic performance of the Power of Love by Nasher of Frankie Goes to Hollywood fame and the astonishing creations in the shelter building competition were among highlights of the night’s line up.
I was there to help with the entertainment but it wasn’t just an excuse to fire up a few specially created playlists.
Before the age of ten I experienced homelessness. After my parents separated I stayed in a B&B. I remember feeling totally desolate as we were turfed out early in the cold well before it was time for school.
Later I spent six years in foster care and this was where I lived; I went to visit family but I never had my own room or a place that truly was my own home.
As a teenager I faced another period of homelessness; this time between rented flats at University I ended up couch surfing. It was degrading and I remember the utter hopelessness I felt.
And once more in the lead up to my divorce I was back to sleeping on a friends couch. Looking back I am filled with appreciation for the humble square footage I call home today. The reality is etched into my mind and at the Sleep Out I was reminded once more – there are many reasons why people can slide into homelessness.
Money raised at the Big Sleep Out will help the Rock Trust support young people who sleep rough. The funds also help those we don’t see on the streets – the hidden homeless. Many, like me, have been through the care system. I was one of the lucky ones. There are thousands more who sleep in B&B’s, on couches, or in unsafe places.
So woolly hats off to the one hundred intrepid souls who slept in the heart of Edinburgh’s city centre last week.
Teams taking part showed heart-warming solidarity and raised a whopping £46,388 plus for the Rock Trust frontline services. That’s money that will directly support young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
The Sleep Out is now both a vital source of funds for the Rock Trust and also a high profile local fundraising campaign; it generates significant press coverage and awareness about homeless young people.
That awareness is needed now more than ever. Young people in Scotland and across the UK face unprecedented challenges in the job market and when it comes to accessing homes.
Shockingly, the number of under-25s reported as homeless in Scotland is almost double the number of those over 25. So there is no room for complacency.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have played a small part in the special 25th birthday Sleep Out for the Rock Trust and hope to be back behind the decks again at future events.
The Rock Trust continues to blaze a trail, providing vital services and a beacon of hope for young people in Scotland who need help to get their lives back on track. Well done to Katriona Harding and the team and here’s to another Big Sleep Out success next year!!
As for the Silent Disco, it’s hard to say who won the caffeine-fuelled battle for listeners and shape throwers. I was mostly relieved that I didn’t accidentally hit one of my six month old daughter’s playlists, featuring classic hits like The Wheels on the Bus.
My rival Pete played a few stomping sing-along favourites and an impressive dance tune mash-up though he did also slip in some Barry Manilow. I prompted a frenzied dancing session after playing Killing in the name of. It’s hard to compete with that. In the spirit of solidarity, let’s say we called it a tie…