8,000 backers recruited for Edinburgh's '˜Sleep in the Park' event

More than 8,000 people will be taking part in a mass sleep-out overnight in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens this weekend.

Thousands are taking part in the event. Mark Greenaway and Clare MacDougall, trade marketing manager at Seafood Scotland serve Alice Thompson, co-founder of Social Bite, and Rob Laing of Edinburgh Airport . Picture: Wullie Marr Photography

Organisers have revealed that more than £2 million has now been raised by participants in Sleep in the Park – half the fundraising target set for the “Sleep in the Park” event.

Social Bite, the social enterprise which has won the backing of stars like George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio, wants to use its biggest ever event to kick-start efforts to eradicate homelessness in Scotland within five years.

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The event, which has been billed as “the world’s largest ever sleep-out”, is the brainchild of Josh Littlejohn, co-founder of Social Bite.

An initial sleep-out for prominent Scots that he instigated in Charlotte Square last December raised more than £550,000 and won the backing of cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, both of whom are backing this weekend’s event.

Some individual supporters have raised more than £5,000 each for Sleep in the Park, while the top corporate groups have pledged nearly £20,000. The top individual and corporate fundraisers will both get personal Christmas gift hampers from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Among those sending teams are whisky giant William Grant & Sons, Edinburgh Airport, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, transport operators Stagecoach and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Mr Littlejohn said: “I’m blown away by the support of the people of Scotland. To have more than 8,000 people have signed up to take part in the event is just incredible. Those taking part are joining a movement to end homelessness in Scotland for good.”

Work is under way to create the vast arena in the public park where Liam Gallagher, Deacon Blue, Amy Macdonald and Frightened Rabbit will perform special “busking” sets for the crowds.

The event will be hosted by comic Rob Brydon while Monty Python and Fawlty Towers legend John Cleese will be performing a special bed-time story for participants.

Participants will be allowed to use a sleeping bag and a plastic sheet, but will not be allowed to sleep under cover. Although hot food and drinks will be available throughout the night, alcohol will not be allowed at the event.

Penny Dougherty, director of Unique Events, which is producing Sleep in the Park for Social Bite, said: “Preparations are well under way to welcome the thousands who have signed up to take part, but sleeping-out all night in the gardens is going to be a real challenge, it is Scotland and it is December.

“We’re asking everybody attending to wrap up well and come prepared for the weather. It’s going to be cold night for a worthy cause, but we have the biggest line-up of artists ever to perform in Princes Street Gardens to get everyone warmed-up before the sleep-out challenge.”

Sir Chris, who will be sleeping out in the gardens, said: “Having taken part in Social Bite’s sleep-out last year, it gave me a real insight into the harsh realities of homelessness and rough sleeping. It is incredible to see how much the event has grown. It’s something I had to get behind again.”

Mr Littlejohn first came to prominence in 2012 when he and business partner Alice Thompson launched Social Bite’s first coffee shop in Edinburgh to help create jobs for homeless people in the city. It now has five retail outlets, two large staff canteens and a corporate catering business.

Top Scottish chef Mark Greenaway also lent his support, serving up lunch yesterday from a mobile seafood bar to passing trade at Edinburgh Airport to raise money for Social Bite’s Sleep in the Park.

Scottish salmon and smoked haddock kedgeree were cooked up and served from the bar located in the Edinburgh Airport Plaza.

The Seafood Scotland team is set to join in by sleeping rough this Saturday, along with a team from Edinburgh Airport, in support of Scotland’s homeless.