It's 1998. The Spice Girls top the charts, France wins the World Cup and everyone’s favourite portly policeman, Tosh, departs The Bill. On the face of it, it’s not a year to look back on with any degree of fondness. However, in October 1998, 35 people took to their sleeping bags and with the stars as their canopy, resolved to spend a cold autumn night raising over £30,000 to help prevent youth homelessness. And so Byte Night was born, the technology industry’s annual charity sleep-out event.
Fifteen years on and Byte Night has become a key part of the technology and business calendar, as staff from some of the UK’s largest companies give up an evening (and the early hours of the morning) to raise money to help Action for Children support vulnerable children and young people across the UK. The event has spread to all corners of the UK, with sites in Cambridge, Edinburgh, London and Reading and since 1998 more than 2,000 sleepers have raised in excess of £4.3m for the charity. It is staggering to think how far we have come and how much we have achieved in just 15 years.
However, there is far more that we want to do. This year on Friday 5 October we hope to smash through the £5m mark and in doing so, help to change the lives of young people at risk of homelessness.
At the heart of what we have achieved in the past 15 years has been the overwhelming support that we have received from the IT industry. The fact that the pot currently stands at £4.3m is testament to the passion and generosity of the technology and business community. It also highlights the way that Byte Night has grown alongside what we regard as the technology industry today. Technology is now more visible and embedded in society than ever before, and so has an even greater responsibility to use its position to help drive societal change.
Having established an important point about social responsibility and the evolution of technology, we should recognise that it’s also a great night. The discomfort and cold are quickly eclipsed by the atmosphere and sense of unity that comes from everyone contributing to such a fantastic cause. It also provides the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends.
Registration for this year’s event is now open and we are hoping to recruit over 1,000 sleepers across the UK to help us to reach our £900,000 target.
By supporting Byte Night you are helping Action for Children tackle the root causes of homelessness, working with young people at risk of homelessness across the UK, such as those leaving the care system; young people at risk of family breakdown and those who are already without a safe place to sleep. Together we can keep vulnerable young people off the streets and enable them to build better lives with access to education, secure accommodation and training opportunities.
So please do join us for our 15th birthday on Friday 5 October and help us to make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable young people across the UK.
Sign up to sleep-out now at www.bytenight.org.uk.
Ken Deeks is the founder of Byte Night.
This was first published in May 2012