Community sleep out and party in Queens Gardens

Oh what a night!

They came, they partied, they slept and they went home, with lots of fun in between. The first annual HHCP BIG sleep out went down a storm with visitors and participants alike.

This was the first big event for us so understandably we were full of anticipation and nerves as we pitched up at 10am in the morning in Queens Gardens with hours to go setting up before people started to arrive. We’d been planning for months, every detail was thought through a hundred times, we had an army of volunteers and plenty of will.

unfortunately for us the weather had decided to test our resolve and it was an extremely wet and windy day, putting up bunting and gazebos in high winds is not fun! We persevered and soon the park was starting to look decidedly party like, the bunting and lights were up, the gazebos stood proud and the new banners from Bluestorm Design left no confusion as to who this rag tag bunch were occupying the gardens.

As the day went on the stage crew arrived, more lighting and equipment was erected, comedy corner took shape, acts started to arrive to sound check and prepare. Doors were open at 5pm and we were ready just in time as the clouds parted and the sun shone down on the start of what would be a first for Hull and a fantastic evening. We’d done what we could, no turning back now guys!

As the team grabbed a quick drink and bite to eat, the first of the teams started to arrive to set up camp for the night, looks of excitement and a shade of nerves in their faces we checked them in and they proceeded to set up camp.13603475_1629412134040923_8285237957386720646_o

As more and more people arrived we started to realise how seriously people had taken our challenge, the materials and designs of some of the shelters were incredible, the sound of frantic planning and discussions filled the air mixed with laughter and giggles, this was shaping up to be a good night.

Whist busy organising acts and directing people, speaking to representatives of the partner charities that were joining us and directing my children to help out I hadn’t noticed what was going on around me for some time, when I stopped to check all was well I realised we were filling up and a small village had emerged under the trees. One thing we were insistent on and what separated this from other events was that the people that the charity is here to help were fully involved in the evening, this was all about them and they should be there right? They didn’t disappoint, lots of our friends were starting to turn up, Sean and the Community Linx guys were there with their tent and lots of service users, information was available, tea and coffee, conversation and smiles. our volunteer team was made up including currently homeless people who wanted to give back for all the work these groups do to support them, spirits were high and the atmosphere was thrilling.

We had a packed bill of entertainment for the evening including The Melodies our dear friends and Hull born girl group, Shakila the beautiful belly dancers organised by the beautiful Tanya, Roxie Royale the burlesque dancer graced the stage for 2 cheeky dances, Help our heroes performed their soon to be released charity single “Untold Story” in aid of veterans and PTSD, one highlight for me was an appearance and stunning set by Johnny Walker the nationally famous professional busker, campaigner and activist, being a fan of his for a good number of years I have to admit to being star struck but extremely grateful he considered us worthy enough to come and join us. We had Zoe and Ruth who are ZoRohUheN performing their new innovative silent show, and comedy corner filled by comedy heavy weights Jack Gleadlow, David Smith and Jed Salisbury and friends who incidentally did an amazing job helping this amateur out with the stage management.

There was food and drink from Dutch Pancake House and Rendezvous 54 Hulls latest and best mobile coffee offering, a mobile ice cream bike, the innovation girls on stilts and the giant love heart picture frame, garden games, beach balls, Frisbees and the Ronson Rock Cafe provided toilets and hot food.

As the evenings entertainment came to a close and none sleepers started to drift off home the rest of us began hunkering down for the night under the stars. Our new friend Johnny Walker stayed long after his performance and we sat in the warn summers breeze discussing homelessness, public spaces and politics whilst the village of tents and shelters gradually got quieter and calm. That was until the call from Caroline for the all important sleeping bag race through the tress! I can’t even tell you who won, it descended into a big heap of bodies and sleeping bags and more giggles.

We all eventually settled down like naughty children staying up as late as we could without our parents knowing, and then, at that point, the true magic of the evening and probably of my whole year so far happened… we were joined by residents of one of the shelters by 5 young men that offered their night up to stay awake and keep watch over the teams of sponsored sleepers! The very people we had organised the event for, the very people we were raising money for decided they would stay up all night and watch over everyone!… Let that sink in. They wanted to protect the teams, as they slept in a strange place, vulnerable and nervous, they understood better than anyone that feeling of vulnerability and stepped up to the mark and showed what TRUE community spirit is.

The rest of the night passed very slowly for us that stayed awake, we talked and pondered and I felt new kinship’s and bonds being formed between everyone. We all learnt something that night about ourselves and and we all came away with new lifelong friends. Goodbyes in the morning were more “see you soon’s” weary campers packed up and made their way home, coffee was served again as we woke and cleared away, Barry went round and got everyone to sign the guestbook, bunting came down, rubbish was cleared, and the park slowly returned to its normal self, the dew on the grass gave it a slightly autumnal feel and as we turned our backs and wearily walked out the park the rain started again, almost like it had been waiting for our departure after blessing us an evenings rest byte.

The HHCP BIG hang out and sleep out will be back next year……..