Hello all you wonderful sponsorers (??). Is that the correct term? Who cares? I like it.
It is 0736 Friday – the morning after the night before – and I am back from Valley Parade and my “sleep out” for CentrePoint and their work helping homeless young ‘uns in our area.
Am I tired? No, not really. Although, I didn’t get any sleep at all and tiredness will probably kick in later. Around 0740 I suspect.
Am I hugely proud of all you lovely folk kind enough to stump up cash to help folk you’ve never met and likely never will? YES!!
How did the event go? Rather well….
Sarah dropped me off a little before 7pm last night. After I signed in and was given a natty orange wrist band – carefully crimped and sealed so as not to fall off – I was shown to the sleeping area. It was somewhat obvious where the sleeping area was – the rows of paper sleeping bags on top of cardboard rather gave it away. Anyway, two of my pals, Tom and Dom from Bantams Banter – the hugely popular and successful Bradford City podcast – had already claimed an area and I joined them and selected my sleeping place for the night. Also joining us in our little area under the main stand was James Mason, the COO of Bradford City and Thomas Davidson from the clubs’ marketing team. What a good looking bunch of “homeless for the night” chaps we were. That little plot of sleeping bags was definitely THE PLACE to be. Or so we thought at that early hour!
The event was kicked off with a speech from the folks at CentrePoint – a rallying call to us all and a reminder of just why we were out in the cold at the beginning of November. Next up on stage was James Mason (one of the dashing, aforementioned, Five Musketeers). A sterling welcome to VP from James, ably helped by two City players, the Alex Twins – Gilliead and Jones.
After the speeches it was time for some live music. Yet another Alex – the Alex Twins were suddenly the Alex Triplets – as Alex Hulme and The Southern Wild (we’re from ‘Oop North but will forgive their “southerness” on this occasion) claimed the spotlight. Some rocking tunes from the band kept VP jumping and the bit under the main stand was certainly THE PLACE to be last night. The crowd (aka “sleeper outers”) were grooving and jiving to the music as Alex and Co. kept us all entertained.
Food was served at this time too. A real footy favourite of peas and pie. Pie and peas. Whatever you prefer to call it, I called it tasty. Local supermarket giants Morrisons generously gave a stack of delicious donuts, freshly baked for the event. Both jam AND custard varieties! The food was most welcome as the temperature began to cool. But, however cool the thermometer got, it wasn’t as cool as us hardy lot beneath the main stand. I tell you now, this is the place to be next year when CentrePoint and Bradford City join forces to help homeless youngsters. So, as soon as next years’ SleepOut is announced, get yourself signed up for it. You’ll have a cracking time AND be helping those in need of a little help.
Folk then began to mill around, chatting to work friends, footy friends, old friends and making new friends. A good vibe settled in as people prepared for the night ahead. James and Tom tootled around making sure everyone was settling in well and doing some Facebook Live-ing of the event. Whatever Facebook Live-ing is, it turned out that the Bantams Banter duo, Tom and Dom, were doing the same.
CentrePoint had provided a whole truck load of cardboard and enough gaffer tape to do a lot of gaffer taping of a truck load of cardboard. These two plentiful supplies were for teams of four to try their hand at building shelters. The point being to illustrate how awkward shelters are to build, how flimsy they usually are and how little protection they offer the homeless.
I was standing idly by when a female voice told me to “Put your hand on this.”
This is not something a woman usually asks me to do and I was a tad surprised. And intrigued. Anyway, Emma, the young lady in question was part of a team from the Yorkshire Building Society attempting to build a shelter. Somewhat disappointingly, her request was simply for me to hold some gaffer tape in place while they worked. Always one for fair play, I advised them that by enlisting me there were breaking the “four in a team” rule. For seemingly respectable, professional looking women they were alarmingly lax about rules and, consequently, I became one of their team. We built a fine shelter. My suggestion of a pitched roof went down well – as did the pitched roof at one end – and much fun was had. Emma then drew on some windows and curtains and what I think may have been a cat. But it was a very odd looking cat.
A number of other teams had tried their hand at shelter building and some fine examples of Yorkshire ingenuity and engineering was on show. Judging then took place though I never found out which shelter eventually won. I suspect it was the masterpiece that was Team Emma’s.
James and Tom from Bantams Banter had a rather delightful conversation with another girl from team Emma about dental hygiene. Tom and the girl, I regret not asking her name, then proceeded to have a “Head Lamp Off” (similar to a dance off). This saw Tom compare the merits of his headlamp against the one worn by the girl from Team Emma. You know the type of thing:
Tom: Mine has bigger LED’s.
Girl: My LED’s are brighter.
Tom: Mine can angle up and down.
Girl: So can mine.
Tom: …..Mine has…..three straps.
Girl: My straps are wider.
That sort of thing. In all honesty, I think Tom got his butt whipped in the Head Lamp Off.
I had found myself a steel girder at a handy and comfortable angle to lean against whilst watching this confrontation. When the dust had settled and Tom had been suitably vanquished, I fired up my iPod with the 1972 series of Steptoe and Son and made myself at home. I chilled out listening to my fave comedy duo – sorry, Bantams Banter, you’re very good, but Harry and his Dirty ‘Ol Man have the edge on you – and leaned back to people watch.
Just after 11pm, Colin Doyle, the Bradford City goalkeeper, and all round nice chap, arrived with his wife, Rebecca, to show their support for the evening. They both spent a good while chatting with people and Colin happily posed for photos with fans and signed bits and bobs for them. Both Colin and Rebecca are lovely people and work tirelessly for their own charity, Liam’s Smile’s – www.liamssmiles.co.uk – which helps children suffering from meningitis. I had a little chat with Rebecca and, later, Colin very nicely sought me out and spent a while talking football and other stuff with me. As I said, he is a lovely chap, although he did distract me from my Steptoe and Son listening! But, Colin, you are forgiven! Well, you will be as long as you keep a clean sheet tomorrow.
By this time a lot of folk were starting to crawl into their sleeping bags and beginning to settle down for the night. Tom, Dom, James, Tom and I – don’t forget, we are, after all, The Five Musketeers – chatted and put the word to rights. By 1130pm we had firmly established how we would steer The Bantams to automatic promotion in May, resolved to write a song worthy of winning the Eurovision Song Contest for the United Kingdom and discovered the alchemist’s secret of turning base metal into gold. We had even worked out what “that” referee from “that” recent match at VP was doing when he went on his little walkout around the pitch. *NOTE – some, or none, of these things may actually have been resolved last night by The Five Musketeers.
And so, eventually, around 1am, most folks were in their sleeping bags, The Five Musketeers included.
The concrete on which the main stand at Valley Parade is built is very good at many things. It is great at being a base on which the main stand can…well, stand on…and is rather good for walking across as you make your way from the turnstiles, via the tea bar and the loos, to your seats and the view of the pitch and the Mighty Bantams thrashing the opposition. HOWEVER – and this is a big however, hence it being in CAPITALS – it is not very good as a bed.
How did my own Sleep Out go?
Well. What with the Uncomfy Concrete, the Crazy World Championship Of Very Noisy And Very Competitive Snorers, the Light That Wouldn’t Go Out and the Paper Sleeping Bags That Sound Like Rustling Crisp Packets Whenever Someone Moved, I didn’t get very sleepy. After an hour of trying, without success, to get to sleep, I gave up, got up and put my boots back on at 2am.
Instead of sleeping, I leant against my girder for a bit and then I chatted with the security staff for a while. It is surprising how nice and friendly the security folk at City are. Genuinely nice people, approachable and interesting. As a fan who attends all matches – except those in The Cup That Can’t Be Named – I see them in their professional capacity and never really give them a thought. But they do sterling work under often difficult and challenging circumstances and their prime objective at all times is to keep fans safe and to allow fans to be, well, fans enjoying the match.
After I had annoyed the security team for a while, I mooched about and slipped past the cordon that kept us from leaving the concourse and visiting the seats and pitch. SSSHHH! Don’t tell James! I spent a little while snapping some photos of the VP pitch in the dark and the special UV(?) grass growing lights that were in operation. Then I Tweeted a bit and sat people watching until 6am came around and folk began stirring.
A tired but quietly satisfied bunch of folk began packing up their belongings, grabbing a hot drink and sandwich before taking their leave of VP and the Sleep Out. As for my fellow musketeers, well James, Tom, Tom and Dom emerged from their sleeping bags looking splendidly turned out and immaculately groomed – salon fresh, you could call their look – and walked jauntily, with a Musketeers meets Reservoir Dogs vibe, to the exit ready to meet whatever the day dared throw at them.
Now, let’s not forget (despite my light hearted description of the shenanigans at the Sleep Out) the reason we were out in the cold night air last night. We were all there in an effort to raise awareness of the great work that CentrePoint do in helping young people in our region who find themselves homeless. And, of course, we were there to raise funds for CentrePoint so that they can provide practical assistance in getting vulnerable young people off the streets and into places of safety. Each of us who chose to sleep out last night succesfully raised varying sums in sponsorship, money that CentrePoint will be able to use in making a tangible difference to bettering someone else’s life. We slept out for one night so that others will not have to.
Despite the uncomfortable concrete and the November night, we were all lucky in that we were sleeping under the cover of the main stand; we were dry and safe from harm. Bradford City had provided security staff who did a fabulous job in watching over us all night and staff from St. John’s Ambulance were on hand to give immediate assistance should anyone need it (thankfully no one did). As a bonus the weather was kind. Sure it rained but, being under the stand, that didn’t affect us and, double bonus, the temperature did not drop too low.
Each of us knew that we were not experiencing life on the streets as the homeless do. And, by heck, we were grateful that we didn’t have to last night. It may not have been as cold as it could have been, but it was cold enough. We may not have been as uncomfortable as someone perching in a doorway trying to keep out of the rain, but it was uncomfortable. We weren’t constantly looking out for predators, afraid of the harm they try to inflict on us but, a strange and dark place, in the dead of night is scary enough. We were fortunate last night. We all had beds to return to, a roof over our heads and easy access to a warm meal – I make a mean slice of toast and a cuppa, my speciality, you might say – and people at home to care for us when we are ill or finding life tough going. Others are not so fortunate. CentrePoint helps these folk.
So, why not help CentrePoint help them?
Sign up for the SleepOut 2018 and spend an entertaining night helping others? You’ll have a good time, do good for others and feel good about it.
And that’s got to be a good thing.