The independent London newspaper

Charity cheers after 20 years

Restaurant-based charity, StreetSmart, relies on diners adding a pound on their bill

27 October, 2017

William Sieghart with Groucho general manager Mary-Lou Sturridge

WHEN William Sieghart found a man huddled in the doorway of the Groucho Club in Dean Street, Soho, 20 years ago, it prompted the start of a charity that has now raised more than £8m for homeless people.

This week is the 20th anniversary of the restaurant-based charity, StreetSmart. And with homelessness on the rise it is more important than ever.

The charity relies on diners eating at various West End (and other) restaurants sticking a pound on their bill, and the idea came from William of the Groucho Club.

“I stepped over a home­less man as I came out of the Groucho, having spent the evening discussing how the club could put somet­hing back into the commun­ity,” he recalls. “The chair­man, Tony Mackintosh, thought that as I had recently set up National Poetry Day I might have an idea up my sleeve that would work for Groucho.”

Originally they had considered sponsoring art students, but seeing the homeless person in Soho, who had made the entrance to the Groucho a place to seek shelter, got William thinking. “When I got home, the idea of a pound on the bill came to me,” he says. “I remember being fascinated as a child by stories about how much money could be raised by rounding up unwanted half-pennies.”

He spoke with the Groucho general manager Mary-Lou Sturridge and they brought on board restaurateurs Ruth Rogers and Pierre Condou.

Today StreetSmart operates in 22 cities across the UK, working with more than 1,000 restaurants.

Diary would like to wish all involved a happy anniversary and say: here is to the next 20 years.


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