Sunday 25 September 2016

George Clooney swaps red carpet for Edinburgh's cobbles

Published 12/11/2015 | 03:01

George Clooney is surrounded by media and fans as he arrives at the Social Bite cafe in Edinburgh
George Clooney is surrounded by media and fans as he arrives at the Social Bite cafe in Edinburgh
A large crowd gathered in Edinburgh's Rose Street and cheered the arrival of the star
Inside the shop, the actor posed for selfies with staff (Frame PR/PA Wire)
Clooney, left, meets Social Bite co-founders Alice Thompson and Josh Littlejohn (Frame PR/PA Wire)
Clooney poses for a photo with fan Sandi Pringle, 57 (Kirsten Pringle/PA Wire)

George Clooney has swapped the glitz and glamour of Hollywood for a humble sandwich shop which helps the homeless.

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Rather than the red carpet, he walked the cobbles of Edinburgh's Rose Street to visit a Social Bite cafe, where he met staff who were once homeless but now have jobs in the chain of shops which donates all its profits to charity.

Stepping out of his chauffeur-driven car, he took time to greet some of those who had waited for hours in the cold, chatting to fans and posing for selfies.

He told a media scrum outside the cafe: " I like what they're doing, I think it's a very important cause. I think the idea that we can all participate in everyone's difficulties is really important."

The movie star described Edinburgh as "beautiful" and said he felt bad for the crowd who had been waiting for him because "they're standing out in the cold".

During his visit to the shop, he handed over a £5 note for the cafe's suspended coffee programme, where customers can pay for a hot drink or meal for a homeless person.

But before he left, he also made a 1,000 US dollars (£650) donation to the shop's till.

Clooney's visit came after he accepted an invitation from Josh Littlejohn, co-founder of Social Bite.

Speaking after Clooney left, Mr Littlejohn said: " George is an incredible guy, someone who has achieved real global fame but thinks nothing of visiting a local sandwich shop to chat to the workers and discuss the issue of homelessness.

"He was delighted to spend time with some of our formerly homeless staff and hear the stories of how they have transformed their lives through full-time work."

A quarter of the workforce in the five Social Bite shops across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen is formerly homeless.

After the visit, Clooney went to the nearby offices of the People's Postcode Lottery where he received a cheque for £175,000 for Not On Our Watch - the humanitarian charity he co-founded with fellow actors including Matt Damon and Brad Pitt.

He thanked players of the charity lottery for their support and added: "Standing united as an international community, this funding will help us to increase global attention to human rights violations across the world."

The Ocean's Eleven star was then taken to Tigerlily on George Street for a private lunch with a small group of people, including 32-year-old Heather McGowan who won a competition organised by deals and events site itison to meet him.

He was seen giving her a kiss on the cheek as the lunch finished and he left the venue.

Ms McGowan, who runs a wedding events company in Glasgow, said: "It still seems a bit surreal, now that it's over. It was lovely and I spent a lot of time with him but now that it is done, it's a time to reflect on it and actually try and absorb all the little bits of the day.

"I was really, really worried that I would just be a mess but I kind of held it together pretty well. I got the first question and managed to keep my cool and answer it. It was a day I'm honestly not going to forget.

"The first question I asked him was about his wedding and what involvement he had in that. He said he pretty much got involved as much as he could but at the end of the day you can only take a certain amount of questions about napkin rings before you lose your cool.

"He is the most charming man. I was really hoping he was going to be charming and amazing and he was above and beyond that. He was brilliant. Everyone that was in there was absolutely captivated by every word that he had to say."

Clooney's lunch guests were treated to a Scottish-themed five-course feast, including salt-aged Inverurie beef carpaccio, pan-fried Scrabster cod and specialist cheeses.

Five chefs from Social Bite joined the Tigerlily team to work on preparing and serving the menu.

Waitress Hannah Stevens was one of the venue's staff members picked to serve Clooney.

She said: "It was a real thrill to be asked to serve Mr Clooney and we were all a bit nervous, b ut he was so courteous and pleasant all the way through the meal.

"He looked so relaxed and was happy to chat to everyone. He also said the food was lovely and he thanked us for looking after him so well."

Later, Clooney met guests at the Scottish Business Awards at the city's international conference centre.

He took part in a question and answer session with TV personality Chris Evans in front of a sell-out crowd of 2,000 who also watched a short video about the Not on Our Watch charity.

Speaking about the People's Postcode Lottery, who earlier had donated to the charity, he said: "I met with the people who are helping us tonight, with the postcode lottery and I have to say it's unbelievable what they have been able to do.

"It is literally like the third largest charitable organisation in the world.

"You do incredible amounts of good and I can't tell you what a thrill it is to learn about it and see it work and what an honour it is to be here tonight with the people I have gotten to meet today along the way. Congratulations to all of you, you should be very, very proud."

Press Association

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