Byte Night 2012 was one of the most miserable nights of our lives.
The things is, the evening actually had all the elements of a great night out – camaraderie, free food, a great London location, random 80s actresses and best of all, a cause. It even had dressing up, which anyone in journalism or PR will tell you always means a great night out.
Bite UK handles the media outreach for Byte Night, the IT industry’s annual sleep out in aid of Action for Children (AfC), and every year we enter a team of sleepers. This year the evening started well. Having almost doubled our fundraising target of £2.5k, Kath Pooley’s promise to don a onesie for the evening was called out, much to her consternation. Frantic trips to Millets and Primark resulted in all 10 team members outfitted in fetching adult sleepsuits, with varying degrees of sartorial success.
London is known for many things – its multiculturalism, its history, its riots and its intricate tube etiquette. But it is the rain that continues to define this great city in the eyes of the rest of the world. The relentless, beating rain. Sideways rain, drizzly rain, heavy rain, this-is-soaking-through-to-my-pants rain. On Friday night we saw all these types of rain and more as one month’s worth of the stuff fell across London in an evening. This is what would greet us as we prepared to spend the night sleeping outside.
Having registered and deposited our already moist belongings in the cloakroom, Team Bite UK took to the floor and made like Cisco (we networked…..little IT in-joke there for our regular readers, love you guys). Speeches from AfC’s Ken Deeks and event host Addison Gelpey brought home exactly why we were about to do what we were about to do. 100,000 kids sleep rough every night, one in three of whom will attempt suicide while one in seven experience physical or sexual assault. Suddenly, in the face of these sobering statistics, the Elvis onesie seemed a little….churlish.
So imagine our delight when 80s film star Jenny Agutter, Patron and supporter of Byte Night for 11 years, weaved her way through the crowd to come and say hi to the Bite crew (and when we say weaved, we mean almost forcibly dragged by overexcited Bite men). Genuinely impressed with our dedication, Jenny (yes…”Jenny”) stayed long enough to discuss her film past with Nick, debate the surprisingly high auction bids with Kath, and sip wine straight from the bottle with Elijah. It is a long way from her starring roles in Equus, Logan’s Run and of course, Child’s Play 2.
Having searched and found every single conceivable way to postpone the inevitable, Team Bite eventually ran out of ideas and decided to move the fun outside. We collected our kit, consisting of tarpaulin, survival bag, brolly, hoodie, water bottle and delightful night cap (steady), before heading outside. Kath Pooley and Lou Waller proudly bagged us a prime spot under a massive tree (the base of which later flooded), promptly ensuring that we all got covered in massive rain drops. Never ones to grumble, we laid out our groundsheets (which all got soaked), arranged our sleeping bags in our survival bags (which all got soaked), placed our belongings in plastic bags under the umbrellas (which still got soaked anyway) and opened the wine (which didn’t get soaked, but turned us all into old soaks anyway).
It says a lot about the marketing, PR and IT professionals of London that despite the biblical rainfall we still all managed to have a good time. Pizzas were auctioned off at midnight, drinks shared liberally, and free tea and coffee drunk by the gallon. Team Bite passed the evening socialising, networking and befriending. At points the rain was so heavy that the only thing we could do was laugh. Once we were finished laughing, we did the only realistically conceivable thing that 11 slightly drunk Biters would do: we danced to South Korean viral pop hit Gangnam Style in our onesies in the light of Tower Bridge in the pouring rain. See video below:
Come 2.30am most of us could stand it no more and we began to attempt to get into our sleeping bags. By this point the rain was relentless, heavy and very, very wet. Not many of us escaped with dry sleeping bags, and indeed a couple of Biters had to pour the water out of their sleeping bags just to get in. Trying to sleep in damp, nylon onesies as your survival bag fills with water and the cold buffets your face is not an easy task.
This is the real reason Byte Night 2012 was so miserable. While we were all extremely tired, cold, wet, muddy and a little unhappy, all of us got to go home to a warm shower and cosy bed. In that moment as dawn broke and, irritatingly, the clouds parted, each of us was acutely aware that there were thousands of children out there on the streets who had just gone through the same night as we had, except had no warm bed or hot shower to go home to.
It vividly brought home exactly why we were raising money. Trying to survive through those conditions every night must be exhausting, dangerous and heinously depressing. We barely managed one night, and I cannot imagine how anyone could tolerate or survive more than that. It made for a sobering thought as we wrung out our onesies and dried our pants on the radiator.
We should also mention at this point the fantastic achievement of two fellow Biters, Patrick and Barry. These two brave souls volunteered to take part in EXTREME Byte Night, pledging to visit every site around the country participating in the event in 24 hours. Not only did the boys manage it, they completed it in stylish pyjamas and managed to document their epic journey via Tweets and blogs. You can find a record of their epic achievement here.
Thanks to everyone who donated, supported and took part in Byte Night 2012. Never before has active fundraising made us so fundamentally aware of the value of organisations like Action for Children.