Friday 6th March was a special night. Over 350 people gathered at Freshfields, just off Fleet Street in London for the start of the Big London Night Walk 2015. Walkers and volunteers, Big Issue Foundation staff, Big Issue vendors, journalists, film crews and the wonderful James & Street Cat Bob were there as the excitement started to build in advance of the 20km walk. Take a look at the photo gallery from the night.
Registration opened 15 minutes early when individuals and teams were welcomed in to take advantage of the refreshments that Freshfields had laid on for the event. There was music, the film “The truth about Stanley” playing in the auditorium and a great team of volunteers mingling and making sure everyone had their walk jacket and was enjoying the build up.
As the start time got closer the large group gathered together in the firm’s atrium for the speeches. Stephen Robertson, Chief Executive of The Big Issue Foundation reminded everyone why we were there, and why we were walking at night. The experience of walking the streets would help us to understand the challenge faced by many new to rough sleeping. “Keeping walking through the exhaustion is preferable to the danger of bedding down in the dark.” he explained. Juliet from Freshfields explained their support for the Foundation and handed over to Viv , a former vendor who had sold the magazine on a corporate placement in Freshfields restaurant and is now working full time as a walking tour guide.
Minutes later the countdown began and the leading wave of walkers were on their way to the first stop, Shoreditch Town Hall. Here they were greeted by vendors George, Paul and Kev, along with Foundation staff member Alan and a team of volunteers. Shoreditch Town Hall was the setting for a view of the charity’s connection to street artists such as Stik , with pieces displayed from 5 artists. Metcalfes provided the popcorn snacks, and George described the evening as having “a party atmosphere”. He was a fantastic advocate for the walk and The Big Issue when he spoke about it on BBC World Service on Sunday morning.
Next it was on to Waterloo where the walkers were met by the serenity of the beautiful St John’s Church and the wonderful energising singing of the Adam Street Singers. They got the walkers involved in their performance with some rousing tunes to get energy levels up! Vendors Steve, Ben, Pat and William welcomed walkers and made them feel at home, offering plantain chips from Grace Foods and 9bars. Steve in particular was on the gate making sure walkers started out again in the right direction.
Vauxhall was just 15 minutes walk along the sparkling river from there where walkers came through the doors of The Big Issue. After being directed in by volunteers and marshalls Viv , Simon and Matt, along with staff member Emma gave everyone a really warm welcome, showing where all the vendor inductions happen and telling them the story of The Big Issue. Amazing cookies from Double Tree by London Hilton Westminster and Nurishment Extra drinks from Grace Foods were the special treat at this stop!
By the time the last walkers were at Vauxhall, the first had already finished. The fastest time was just 3 hours 30 mins for the 20km route, but the remaining walkers kept walking on, determined to reach the fourth stop and on to the finish. Thanks to the positivity of Central London Samaritans our fourth stop gave walkers the final push to the finish line. Andre, Brian and Amy stepped up the few flights of stairs to the balloon filled meeting room and chatted to walkers from 1am – 4am. Snacks here were provided by Urban Fruit, a tasty treat that left in the pockets of many walkers for the final stretch, and beyond!
The final walkers, Ann and Liz crossed the line with vendors Simon and Matt who had joined from Vauxhall at 4.55am, just in time to enjoy the final tray of bacon rolls!
All walkers returning to Freshfields were given a medal and goodie bags containing Aloe Vera drinks from Grace Foods, Double Tree by London Hilton Westminster, a promotional make over and photoshoot voucher from Citi Studio and a flyer for walks organised by Unseen Tours.
Walkers who raise over £200 by the fundraising deadline, Friday 20th March, will be entered into a prize draw to win one of the following:
- KS Sonar portable wireless speakers with light show courtesy of KitSound (3 available RRP £50 each)
- A hamper generously filled with mouth-watering Caribbean delights courtesy of Grace Foods (2 available)
- A delicious dinner for two at Carioca in Brixton Village
- Selection of toiletries from The Body Shop (2 available)
- A stylish Under Armour sports bag
We will also be rewarding our top fundraiser with 1 KS Cayman 2.1 wireless sound system also courtesy of KitSound (RRP £200).
We’d also like to thank every individual and organisation whose support made the night such a great success:
- Freshfields, our sponsor and brilliant hosts at the start and finish
- All of the vendors from London that walked or hosted our walkers at rest stops
- The 50+ volunteers who took time out of their Friday nights to support the event, some not finishing till 6am!
- All of the venues, Shoreditch Town Hall, St John’s Church in Waterloo and Central London Samaritans who made sure walkers had a welcome break
- James and Street Cat Bob whose every appearance sent a ripple of excitement through the crowd!
- Our photographers and film crew, Andy Commons , Dean Porter, Gisele Ryan and Richard Reed
- The phenomenal Adam Street Singers
- The 40+ sixth form walkers and supporting teachers from Ringwood School near Bournemouth
- Staff Carly and Simon, and vendor Bill who joined us from Big Issue in Bournemouth
- Sandy and Sky, the first a friendly ferret, the second perhaps the most adored dog on the walk!
- And Rob and Alan from our great event management company The Fair
- And to all the generous companies who donated food, drinks and discounted travel home.
Photos by Andy Commons www.andycommonsimages.com
Fisayo Fadahunsi and her production team joined us on the night and made this brilliant article for London 360 which was aired on the Community Channel (Sky 539, Freeview 63, Virgin 233 and Freesat 651). Take a look!