As Sleep in the Park expands to all four of Scotland's major cities this December, we reflect on the success of last year's event and chat to some of the musicians taking part this year
It's fair to say that last winter's Sleep in the Park event, organised by the Edinburgh charitable organisation and café Social Bite, was a big success. Search under their website for the 'Last Year's Results' section and you'll see why; a list of achievements towards tackling homelessness not limited to the building of the Social Bite Village in the city's Granton area; the rolling-out of the Housing First program across Scotland, to get rough sleepers into mainstream housing; and an assortment of money given to related charities, academic studies and Social Bite's own charitable work.
The reason for this success appears simple – that the idea to get several thousand people to sleep out in a public place on one freezing night, enticed by the thought of some good music to start things off, is an imagination-grabbing idea. Of course, doing this relatively luxurious task isn't anything like being without a home, but Social Bite and its founder Josh Littlejohn (a man not averse to promoting his charity with a bit of showbiz, having previously invited George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio to Edinburgh) only need to inspire enough empathy to get the money rolling.
'It felt a really positive occasion and I was happy to be a part of it,' says singer Amy Macdonald, who played last year and is back again this time. 'Sometimes there are too many charities and people don't know what to donate to, but the way Social Bite has done it is great - they're big, they're bold, they say "here we are, here's what we're about, we want to raise as much money as possible so we're going to make as much noise as possible". You feel almost humbled to perform in front of all these people who are doing their best to help others.'
KT Tunstall This year, Macdonald and KT Tunstall will be travelling to all four cities taking part in an expanded Sleep in the Park in one night to play ten-minute sets; the plan had been to do it by helicopter, she says, but problems finding places to land mean they'll now be travelling by car. Elsewhere, the events will be headlined by Lulu in Edinburgh, Kyle Falconer in Dundee and Eddi Reader in Glasgow, with a bunch of other musical and non-musical guests including Chris Hoy, Irvine Welsh and the Orwell Prize-winning Darren 'Loki' McGarvey.
Glasgow's event, meanwhile, will be a special one for very different reasons. Having agreed to do the gig before their lead singer Scott Hutchison died earlier this year, Scott's brother Grant (whose wife works with Social Bite) and the other members of Frightened Rabbit will be playing together for the first time, as friends including James Graham of the Twilight Sad – whose band are also appearing – contribute guest vocals. 'We felt it would be the perfect time for us to play together again,' said Grant in a statement, 'and, since it was something for such a great cause, that we should stick to our decision and honour Scott in the best way we know – to play the songs he wrote and continue spreading his message of kindness while supporting Social Bite and the amazing work they do.'
'I have no details of what's happening yet, other than the terror of not doing the songs justice that's filling my bones,' says Kathryn Joseph, who will also be singing with Frabbit. 'But yeah, I'm incredibly honoured to be doing it. I only saw Scott occasionally, but when I did he was the loveliest guy ever. You know the Hits the Fan label who released my debut record, they basically started that label to release Frightened Rabbit's music? The connections were so strong.
'When I first heard him play "Poke", I was bawling my eyes out, it's a perfect song. Will I cover it here? I don't know – I just know that whatever they want me to do, I'll do my best. Even being a girl's voice on it is worrying me a wee bit, they're such beautiful Scottish boy songs! It's very similar to when Emma Pollock did the Kate Bush tribute (at True North in Aberdeen) … the perfect song becomes the Holy Grail, but then you realise there are so many beautiful ones.'
After the success of last year's landmark event, Social Bite's charity sleep-out is back and this time has extended to all of Scotland's major cities. Acts confirmed to play across the four cities are Amy MacDonald and KT Tunstall, as well as many more. It will take place in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens, Aberdeen's…