Trevor Connell reports an spending a night in the cold
Networking events are a wonderful thing.
At a Canberra Convention Bureau networking function a few months ago I got chatting to Barbara Knackstedt from St Vincent de Paul Society. “Would I help out with photography at the CEO Sleepout” she asked. I agreed to meet with them for a chat.
So that was how I then finished up on the longest night of the year (the winter solstice) at the National Gallery of Australia. My role was to simply photograph (along with another volunteer photographer) all the CEOs as they arrived. However, in the meantime, I had also committed to staying the night with them and to raise funds as well. I love camping so sleeping out was not new to me. In fact, earlier that month, I had been on a camping trip to Cape York.
But what a contrast this turned out to be.
Fortunately the 21st of June is just the first day of winter and was quite mild – the temperature only got down to 5 degrees. Since then, as winter really kicked in the overnight temperature in Canberra has been as low as -7 degrees and on those nights my thoughts have often turned to those who are sleeping rough – yes even in one of the most affluent city in Australia.
So, back to the event. Following their portrait shot the participants were ushered outside for a cup of hot soup served from a Vinnies mobile soup kitchen. Then into the Gandel Hall for a series of presentations about the work of the St Vincent de Paul Society (Vinnies) by supporters and recipients of that support.
Then it was out into the cold. The Sculpture garden of the NGA is one of my favourite spots in Canberra. However seeing the area now strewn with makeshift camps made from cardboard gave that view a whole new perspective. The area was sheltered from the wind – but not from the rain that came about 2 AM, which saw a scramble into the shelter of the car park.
Friday morning the campers were roused before daybreak and ushered upstairs for breakfast – porridge. Then, I guess like most of the participants, I headed home for a beautiful fresh coffee. A luxury not afforded to those less fortunate that we were there to learn about and support.
I know that a number of people in our industry have supported this cause over the years including Linda Gaunt (CEO, MEA), Robyn Hendry (CEO, Canberra Convention Bureau), Tony Chamberlain (CEO, Staging Connections) and Felicity Zadro (CEO, Zadro Communications).
In our industry we tend to work on, produce or attend much more glamorous events. So if you are a CEO I encourage you to consider participation. And if you are not a CEO then I encourage you to encourage your boss to participate.
I interviewed Robyn Hendry about her experience.
Allan McLardy (Events and Fundraising Coordinator) and Amy Linsell (Media and Communications) talk about running the event
Frank Brassil (President, St Vincent de Paul Society – Canberra Goulburn) talks about the work of Vinnies in Canberra