SOS tents outside church

January’s sleepout – the full story

Tony King reports on CamCRAG’s second successful sleepout

On Saturday 26th January CamCRAG held its second ‘Big Cambridge-Calais Sleepout’ in association with our charity partner, the Whitworth Trust.  Twenty people volunteered to be sponsored to spend a winter’s night in the churchyard of St Giles’ church in aid of the vulnerable and homeless people of Cambridge and Calais.

The day started with a winter’s fair inside the church which featured an array of stalls, crafts and activities including ponchos, home-made soup, jam and cakes, tent-building and videos of the Help Refugees warehouse in Calais. The afternoon was rounded off with speeches from Maddie Skipsey of Refugee Community Kitchen, Douglas de Lacey, chair of South Cambs District Council, and Ruth Jackson, chair of the Whitworth Trust – to all of whom, many thanks from CamCRAG. 

This was also a moment of considerable sadness as we learnt that Whitworth House, a hostel run by the Whitworth Trust for homeless and vulnerable young women in Cambridge, is to lose its funding, and is threatened with closure.  At the time of writing there is a petition to save Whitworth House with nearly 30,000 signatures and CamCRAG is actively supporting our charity partner at this time.  You can find the petition here:

The church was tidied up for the evening service which was taken by our friend and huge supporter, Revd Ank Rigelsford, after which we prepared and shared our evening meal. 

Revd Ank Rigelsford

And then we went to sleep – or, at least, we tried to. Whereas the weather last year was windy, but dry and mild, we had no such luck this year!  At 4am a storm struck, with torrential, freezing rain. Everyone stuck it out – inside their tents, in our CamCRAG SOS Tents, and under nothing but a piece of tarpaulin – and we all survived to enjoy our traditional breakfast of bacon butties in the very welcome warm and dry nave of the church.

We found ourselves to be the centre of media attention, including a piece by Cambridge Live TV, interviews on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Cambridge 105, and articles in the Cambridge News and the Cambridge Independent newspapers, as well as Cambridge University’s Varsity.

Our sponsorship target was £5,000.  Online donations totalled  £7,909 and, with offline donations and money raised from the fair, we have raised over £10,000, to be split between our two charities.  A massive thank you to everyone who supported us, and see you again next year!
Donations to the Sleepout close at the end of this month so there is still a day left to give: Donate online at

CamCRAG's SOS tents