Hundreds of people braved the cold sleeping outside in the Granite City to raise money for the homeless at the weekend.
Generous Aberdonians joined fellow Scots in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee to give up their bed for a night as part of this year’s Sleep in the Park event.
Singers Eddi Reader, KT Tunstall and Amy Macdonald took to the stage at Duthie Park to entertain the crowds as they braved rain, wind and temperatures of just 2C.
The sleep out, which started at 4pm on Saturday and finished around 5am the following day, also saw Dons manager Derek McInnes read a bedtime story to the crowd.
The event was organised by charity Social Bite and all the money raised will support its operations, including Housing First, an initiative aimed at offering “wrap-around” support to homeless people, as well as a home.
Social Bite boss Josh Littlejohn also spoke to the assembled crowd, announcing that £3.2 million had been raised so far across the country, and they are on track to meet the £4 million target when fundraising closes on Christmas Eve.
Josh said: “It’s a real privilege to be able to go round all four cities, and the set up here in Aberdeen looks fantastic.
“I’m thrilled with the turnout, and I’m totally grateful and delighted with everyone that’s got behind the cause.”
This year’s event was the first to be rolled out across the country, following last year’s successful sleep out in Edinburgh.
Steven Drummond, who works in customer service at Proserv, raised £4,500.
Steven said: “I’ve got two young kids, and I’ve seen a few things about young people being made homeless, so I wanted to get involved.
“It seemed like a good charity, and I like the fact that you can actually see what they’re doing.”
Fiona Smith and Charlene Chalmers, social work students at Robert Gordon University, joined a group of their classmates in the park and raised just over £1,000 in the process.
Fiona said: “I think the course that we’re on makes us a bit more socially conscious, and we think that this is a really good cause.”
Housing First will be managed by a consortium formed of Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils, and three charities from the north-east, including Aberdeen Cyrenians.
Mike Burns, CEO of Cyrenians, said: “The most important thing about this event is raising awareness of homelessness and rough sleeping and raising money to help us end homelessness here in Scotland.
“I think it’s fantastic that a nation comes together in the way that we have, to try and end something as shocking as homelessness.
“The Aberdeen public have been the most generous people in their support of Cyrenians, and the 1,800 people who gathered here is something to be very proud of indeed.”
Stewart Milne, chairman of Aberdeen Football Club, rallied a group of staff from both businesses, including Dons manager Derek McInnes and players including defender Mark Reynolds to take part, raising just over £20,000.
He said: “I am proud of the teams from Stewart Milne Group and Aberdeen FC who participated in Sleep in the Park alongside me.
“It was a challenging night but a worthwhile one and I am delighted that the group is on target to raise in excess of £20,000 for this extremely important cause.
“Thanks to Josh Littlejohn and the team at Social Bite for organising this inspiring event, I think everyone involved can feel rightly proud in playing a part in raising both money and awareness. I look forward to seeing the final amount raised on Christmas Eve.”
Amy Macdonald, who along with fellow Scottish songstress KT Tunstall travelled to all four Scottish cities to perform, said: “I’m a dab hand at this now, I was in Edinburgh last year, and it was such an amazing atmosphere.
“When I heard that they were going to do it again, I was definitely on board, because I thoroughly enjoyed it last year.”
Amy said that she has never had any experiences with homelessness, but hopes the efforts of her and 10,000 other people across the country can raise awareness of the issue.
She said: “I’m very lucky that I can say I’ve never been in that position.
“But I think that the problem is that people see homelessness and think that it’s a choice, but it’s not, and especially with the austerity that we’ve been seeing for years as a country.
“People that are working can be put into this situation, if they lose their job and it just unravels, so it can happen to anyone.
“It’s events like this that really raise that awareness.”