What a night! Trinity Winchester‘s Big Sleep Out 2022 at Winchester Cathedral was a breath of fresh air, bringing together local charities, businesses, community services and Winchester residents. It was an all-nighter of fun, food, and fundraising for people affected by homelessness. There were leaping dancers. There were bonging bells. There was yoga and acupuncture, a cappella harmonies. Not to mention the pies and burritos, the biscuits in little bags, the free croissants and coffee and brilliant breakfast baps.
The extraordinary setting of Winchester Cathedral made for an out-of-this-world atmosphere. And the team efforts to build shelters, what can we say? The cardboard constructions were nothing short of ingenious (apart from Help Me Stop’s questionable effort – perhaps the less we say about that, the better).
A few highlights of the Big Sleep Out 2022
Charlotte and Moira from Help Me Stop Winchester built our cardboard home for the night next to the cheerful team from Draper Tools. It’s fair to say that Draper Tools’ elevation and roofing skills were in a different league to Help Me Stop’s. The height they achieved – it was nothing short of a miracle – and they get bonus points for the fairy lights and sturdy Draper’s tape. As Big Sleep Out rookies, Help Me Stop went all-out roofless for the night, putting our childlike faith in the BBC’s forecasting skills, and ignoring all warnings about creatures of the night.
We set up our Help Me Stop stand next to the bright folk from The Winchester Beacon, who do great work to break the cycle of homelessness. Their little helpers made exquisite lanterns for everyone’s shelter overnight – we were so delighted to receive ours, what a lovely surprise. We cheered Integr8 Dance, accepting in a heartbeat that we will never be able to co-ordinate our arms and legs like them. We listened to the Winchester A Cappella chorus, whose tuneful togetherness made us weep with appreciation (and mild envy). And when Dame Esther Rantzen arrived to read us a bedtime story, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, we sat on our cardboard mats and listened to the universal tale about kindness. We marvelled at the community spirit around us, amplified by the protective walls of the giant cathedral. Then it was time for bed. And though it’s fair to say we didn’t get much shut-eye, we felt very lucky to sleep in such sacred ground, under the stars and bright moon. There wasn’t a drop of rain all night, which goes to show that naivety and trusting the great British weather is a success strategy.
In the morning, we were treated to a free breakfast, cooked by the Rapid Relief Team, who provided tea, coffee, bacon rolls and veggie burgers – served by wide-awake chefs with winning smiles. And just when we thought it was all over, The Winchester Bakery arrived with trays laden with fresh pastries: you have a very special place in our hearts, dear bakers, those croissants were buttery heaven. We must also say a big thank you to the Winchester Cathedral team, who gave us access to their stunning cathedral overnight. We meditated in there in the evening. We lit candles for people we love. We were thankful for the toilets! But most of all, the silence inside the cathedral at night, the blue and orange light, the stained glass windows and sculptures, and the powerful sense of history – it is breathtaking, it really it is. We met a wonderful chap called Greg from Winchester Council around 11pm, as we were searching for the oldest part of the cathedral. It turned out Greg knew exactly where that was. He showed us paintings on walls that are over 1000 years old, hidden away until a wall was knocked through. The opportunity for reflection was rare and refreshing. It was a privilege to be allowed in.
Of course, the biggest thanks must go to our new partner in Winchester, Trinity, who brought together the whole community for their 10th Big Sleep Out, inspiring us all. By the morning of Saturday 14th May, over £24,000 had been raised, with donations still coming in – you can still donate to the Help Me Stop fundraising page here. Moira and Charlotte took a walk around Winchester town centre at 6.30am on Saturday morning, stopping off to chat to some of the people who Trinity reach out to. We came across mainly men, sleeping in shop doorways on the High Street. We spoke to a lovely man, articulate, big kind eyes. All he wanted was a bag of crisps and a Coke. He said his legs were in permanent pain. He explained that he took a wrong turn in life, ended up in prison, and now he is battling an addiction. As we listened to his story, we thought about the wrong turns we had taken in life, and how safety nets had caught us just in time. Trinity Winchester provide a safety net to people who have run out of options, and we are so proud of them and their work.
To book a confidential drug or alcohol treatment assessment, call 01962 217 090, or visit our Winchester Rehab page and fill out our short enquiry form. Help Me Stop Winchester provides intensive and affordable Dayhab treatment for alcohol and drug addiction.