About 75 IT industry executives turned out for what has become a regular feature in the IT calendar - the annual Byte Night charity sleep-out that raises money for children's charity NCH. The number of sleepers was down on last year, perhaps reflecting the dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of IT suppliers that have traditionally been stalwarts of the event.
This year the plan was to run three simultaneous sleep-outs, in London, Manchester and Glasgow. But the Glasgow event was called off owing to lack of support.
Each sleeper was given a survival kit consisting of a banana, drinks, wine gums, plastic bag (to put your sleeping bag in), umbrella and a United Airlines toiletries bag. Experienced Byte Nighters advised new sleepers to place their shoes upside down to "stop the dew forming in them".
In London's Finsbury Square the pre-bedtime entertainment came in the form of a human table-football competition. Teams of five allowed themselves to be strapped to scaffold poles strung across a pitch around the edge of which were inflatable walls.
The scene at 12.30am was reminiscent of the gatherings of homeless people who used to congregate under Waterloo Bridge - except for the mobile phones - especially when Paul Goddon of Integralis turned an HP cardboard box into an impromptu shelter.
In Manchester, a select group of 14 volunteers assembled at the Old Trafford cricket ground. Unfortunately, the pitch was being dug up to install new drains, so the sleepers had to make do with a concrete area outside the pavilion.
"I'm glad I've got my carry-mat," said Sammie Long, an HR manager at ICL based in Manchester. The discomfort was mitigated by biscuits and a quiz.
Long took part in Byte Night last year, in London. "It was a really good, entertaining night," she said. "I met lots of people from different companies."
And her strongest memories of a night on the capital's pavements? "Watching Steve Redgrave win a gold medal in the Olympics, and waking up in the morning very wet and thinking 'is this condensation or what?'"
The London event this year attracted the usual smattering of celebrities. Golfer Nick Faldo and his wife threw themselves enthusiastically into all the night's events, followed everywhere by a camera crew from a sports cable TV channel. Upcoming singer Beverlei Brown was on hand for the early part of the evening, before dashing off to a gig in Reading.
Actress Jenny Agutter is a regular at Byte Night, and a long-time supporter of NCH. "Byte Night is about looking to the future," she said. "After all, IT is an industry about the future. It just shows we can do something that makes a difference."
The event is expected to raise £30,000 for NCH.
Byte Night's stargazers
The massed sleepy-heads at this year's Byte Night event represented all facets of the IT industry, from software and services companies to user departments, and from training companies to recruitment agencies - not to mention the press.
Here is a selection of the organisations whose employees donned waterproofs, slipped into sleeping bags and snoozed under the stars, all in the name of charity:
- AKA Training
- Allen and Overy
- Barclays Private Equity
- British Bankers Association
- Astron Group
- Computer Futures
- Computing Services & Software Association
- Eli Lilly
- Huxley Associates
- Lloyds TSB
- Proctor & Stevenson
- RSA Security
- The Woolwich
This was first published in October 2001