Q&A: Ken Deeks, Byte Night

We speak to the Byte Night founder about this worthy event, which raises money for Action for Children.

Q&A

How have you found the experience of guest editing today?

It's been fantastic. The team is really nice, very supportive, very helpful. I was warmly welcomed. It's been a fabulous experience.

This is my second time as guest editor and I would absolutely come back. I enjoyed it the first time and I have enjoyed it equally the second time. 

How much money has been raised for Byte Night 2013 so far and how much are you hoping to raise?

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Since its inception 16 years ago the event has raised 5.2 million. A big chunk of that has actually come in the last four to five years. It takes a while for any event to get of the ground.

The really exciting thing is we're seeing some quite incredible money-raising in the last couple of years. Two years ago, we raised 760,000 for that one evening. Last year, we raised 960,000. That actually puts Byte Night in the top 10 of fund raising events in the country. 

There aren't many one-off events that raise a million pounds. Having reached 960,000 last year, we're really hoping to top 1 million this year. That's the target. We didn't think we'd get close to a million last year. I wouldn't say I was confident as there are a lot of charities out there competing for everyone's pound - and there are a lot of good causes - but the figures at the moment look encouraging. 

This time last year, bearing in mind we hit 960,000, we were at 270,000 just four days before. Now, we're at 350,000 so that does suggest if we have that percentage growth coming in we'll go over the million, which would be great. Though a million would be great, quite frankly if we raise 900,00, it's 900,000 more than they would have had. 

There are limited costs involved with this event so it's a very profitable event for the charity. Some 70 per cent of the money comes in before the week before and week after. 

With so many other charitable events out there, do you feel proud that Byte Night is still getting so much support?

Yes, because it's very real. The children we're raising money for are often the forgotten children. The people Action for Children looks after are those very vulnerable 14 to 18-year-olds. 

That resonates with everyone and they can imagine how their lives might have taken that kind of turn through the usual teenage angst. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. We're talking here about helping people who've had to leave home because they've been neglected or abused, cruelly treated. They find themselves on the streets through no fault of their own. 

The first Byte Night was fairly small, can you talk about the event has grown?

There are several locations. Three are new. The first year we had 30 people in one venue and today we have 1,400 people sleeping out in seven different venues. 

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I think it's really starting to take off and we're going to see other venues attach. Who's not to say in 10 years time this couldn't be a 10 million event with 20-30 Byte Nights happening around the country. 

It rained non-stop during 2012's event, but that doesn't seem to have put people off from getting involved does it?

The event creates incredible camaraderie. I think I experience one of my worst moments of the year and one of my best moments of the year about three hours apart. 

At about 3am I'm feeling probably about as miserable as I could feel because I can't get to sleep, it's noisy, the ground's hard etc. Then, at 6am, you wake up and see people stirring and making their way over to get a cup of tea and there's a great sense of achievement. There's a great sense that people have made a difference - not on their own but as part of a community. That's a great feeling. 

Byte Night is supported by a great number of people who give up time and resources (Norton Rose, for example) to help. Can you tell us about these unsung heroes?

These things couldn't happen without the generosity and support of lots of different people. 

PR agencies like Bite provide a lot of help -and videos - and don't get a penny for it. On the marketing side, Wilson Miller has created the website and marketing services and done a great job. 

Norton Rose, for example, in London provides the venue, which is fantastic. 

Each region also has a board of people who are volunteers from the industry that contribute and shape the event. Without their involvement, drive and commitment, Byte Night wouldn't be the success it is. 

What would you say to those who haven't heard of Byte Night or aren't sure about supporting the event?

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One in three homeless people try to commit suicide. That's a fact. That is just wrong. 

This event unites people. You're with other people that want to make a difference. That's just huge. There's no doubt it's symbolic. No one is trying to suggest you're actually experiencing homelessness - you're not experiencing the lack of hope or security. 

It's the one event that unites the industry. I'm not sure there's another like it. You have the IT users, the vendors and the services companies - those three communities get together to make this a more successful event every year. 

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