|Photo by Harriet Armstrong|
I recently took part in Centrepoint's annual Sleepout, an event where more than 850 people spend a night sleeping on the street in Exchange Square in London, to raise awareness and money for the homeless charity. I was to perform with Kristyna Myles. Eliza Doolittle, Stooshe and comedian Tim Vine were also performing, and Sara Cox from Radio 1 and Richard Madeley were presenting the evening.
|A pic from last years sleepout|
Prior to the day I prepared myself for spending a night sleeping out on the street, making sure I had thermals, hats, scarfs, gloves, waterproofs and a sleeping bag. I was advised that it was better to wear lots of thin layers than a few thick ones. I also read that it was good to consume as many calories as possible during the day, so that there would be more to burn off during the cold night. An idea which I found quite pleasing.
We were to perform at two Centrepoint Sleepout locations during the evening, and after we'd sound checked at Exchange Square we headed to Canary Wharf for the first gig. I felt a bit like Phil Collins at Live Aid, except with a black cab instead of Conchord. The gig at Canary Wharf was great, the crowd were very enthusiastic. After we finished we jumped back in the cab and dashed to venue one. We had to make sure we were there and ready to play by '9:01pm' as it was being filmed for the live 3 hour TV show of the night. Before we played, Kristyna did an interview for the TV show with Sara Cox and Tim Vine.
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After the gig we were able to relax a bit. It was great to chat to Eliza Doolittle and her guitarist Charlie, as well as Richard Madeley and Tim Vine. Kristyna and I also had some great conversations with some random people who had been sponsored to sleep out for the night. Everyone was in great spirits, it was almost like a mini-festival. We played at the same event last year and this year seemed to be even better. It seems to be evolving into something really great, with Sleepout locations all over the country. The Centrepoint personnel work tirelessly for a great cause, and deserve a lot of respect.
|With Eliza Doolittle|
Eventually it was time to bed down for the night. We each had an allotted cardboard sleeping bag. It was bizarre bedding down a few feet away from Richard Madeley and Sara Cox. Kristyna slept next to Tim Vine, and I could hear her laughing at the comedians jokes into the small hours.
It was a fairly mild night for the time of year, about 10 degrees celcius. As I was well prepared I didn't find the cold too bad. What struck me most was the amount of noise, and how hard it was to get any decent sleep. As soon as I drifted off for ten minutes, a lorry would clatter past, or someone would shout and I'd be wide awake again. I think I managed to get an hour or two of interrupted sleep. We had to get up at 6am and move out of the way before people started heading to work. I felt pretty groggy when I woke up. Luckily the RAF provided everyone with breakfast, which helped matters.
I felt pretty exhausted and horrible as I drove up to Blackburn for a gig the next day. But that was just after one night, I felt particularly thankful that I was able to sleep in my own bed again. The reality is 80.000 young people experience homelessness everyday. If you want to donate, you can do so here.