Survival bags will be issued to up to 8,000 people sleeping rough this weekend in a bid to ‘end homelessness’ – with temperatures expected to plunge to minus-3 during the charity event.
Organisers of Sleep in the Park in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens will issue heavy tarpaulins to cover sleeping bags as the mercury plummets for a predicted cold snap.
Unique Events, which is organising the Saturday night charity event on behalf of Social Bite, said checklists have been sent to everyone taking part in the mass charity appeal – which will feature ‘busking’ performances by former Oasis front man Liam Gallagher, Amy Macdonald and Deacon Blue.
Al Thomson, Director of Unique, said: “Forecast wise it’s actually fantastic. We’ve had some rough weather through the week but thankfully that didn’t cause us any issues.
“For our setup it’s looking like perfect winter weather – it’s going to be dry, which is the main thing, but it’s going to be very cold. We’re expecting the temperature through the night on Saturday to drop to about minus-3. So, we’re just making sure with our messaging that people have all got their checklists of what they need to bring and what they need to wear, and that they’ve got the right type of sleeping bag.
He added: “But we give everybody a survival bag – it’s kind of a big thick tarpaulin bag which goes over their sleeping bag as well which retains a lot of heat, and will keep people dry. For us, the safety of everyone is our absolute priority.”
Thomson said there will be special welfare tents pumping hot air inside; there will also be fire braziers, hot drinks and winter fayre handed out to people who are taking part in the largest-ever sleepout in Scotland to raise money for the homeless.
“It’s a big operation but we’re really excited about it,” added Thomson. “It’s going to be completely outdoors, and it will hopefully be a clear night under the stars in Edinburgh, but people are going to have really wrap up warm and do this – it’s going to be a challenge. We expect people to be in through the night sleeping in the gardens for six or seven hours. Six o’clock is our finish time in the morning.”
He added: “The event has been produced by us – obviously on behalf of Social Bite – and we are working with first aid providers; it’s a very similar setup to something like Hogmanay when we were looking at the kind of provisions we needed for something of that scale. However, a lot of the suppliers from our side – once we explained to them what the event is, and what the charity is, they’ve been really on board. I think that’s the same with the public as well – they’ve absolutely captured this; if we had previously thought we could have up to 8,000 people sleeping in the gardens through the night in December, most people would have said we’re mad.”
Thomson said around £2.6m has already been raised and some individuals have personally raised over £7,000 each. He said he expects the target to go beyond £3m and that the fundraising activities will continue through the Christmas and New Year period.
He said he expects some of the artists will sleep out with ordinary people in Princes Street Gardens although Liam Gallagher – who is currently on tour – will be performing only. John Cleese has written a special bedtime story which will bring the show to a close before people bed down for the night until 6am. Six times Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy and Government officials will also be among those sleeping out for the charity as well as individuals and local businesspeople.
Thomson said: “Collectively, it’s been about creating this event that has brought a lot of these people together who all have the same ambition to help address these problems and hopefully we will get to a point where we can eradicate this [homelessness] in society. It’s been pretty inspirational – Social Bite and the work that they do, they have done incredible stuff.”
There will be a strict no alcohol policy and a search policy will be put in place by Unique Events, added Thomson, as safety remains the chief concern of organisers.
“We have as we would with any show a standard search policy – if there’s no alcohol to be brought into the event, there’s no alcohol. We will be conducting all those searches and going through those safety procedures to make sure everyone is as safe as they can be,” he said. “It’s a dry event not only because of the health and safety implications – the body heat that the body loses once you drink alcohol is well known.”