George Clooney Given Warm Welcome In Edinburgh
12 November 2015, 12:19
Hollywood superstar George Clooney has been given a warm welcome as he arrived in Scotland's cold capital - to visit a sandwich shop.
A large crowd gathered in Edinburgh's Rose Street and cheered as the A-lister stepped out his chauffeur-driven car.
Clooney was visiting the Social Bite cafe to meet members of staff who were once homeless but now have jobs in the chain of shops which donates all its profits to charity.
He stopped to greet some of those who had waited for hours in the cold, and described the social enterprise as "fantastic''.
He told a media scrum outside the cafe: "It's pretty amazing, and I'm looking forward to seeing it, I haven't seen it up close yet.
"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''.
He said he "didn't know'' which kind of sandwich he would try in Social Bite but promised to buy a loyalty card.
Clooney arrived in the city after accepting an invitation from Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn, who has also set up the Scottish Business Awards which the actor will attend later.
Social Bite gives all of its profits to good causes and operates a ''suspended'' coffee and food programme where customers can pay for a hot drink or meal for a homeless person.
A quarter of the workforce in the five Social Bite shops across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen is formerly homeless.
Speaking after the movie star left, Mr Littejohn said he had "donated £1,000 by all accounts, and also handed over a £5 note inside''.
He added: "We knew that George is a really committed humanitarian, he has his own charity in Sudan, so we reached out to that charity and invited him over to Scotland.
"We said we would help fund raise for his charity and invited him to our Social Bite cafe, and to our delight he accepted.''
Ocean's Eleven star Clooney will also have lunch at a secret location later in the day with 32-year-old wedding planner Heather McGowan, who won a competition to meet the A-lister.
He will speak at the Scottish Business Awards at the city's international conference centre in front of a sold-out, 2,000-strong audience.
All proceeds from the business awards event, hosted by comedian Rob Brydon, will go towards a range of charities including the Social Bite Fund and Not On Our Watch, the humanitarian charity co-founded by Clooney with fellow actors Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and others.
Speaking ahead of the private lunch event, Ms McGowan, who runs a wedding events company in Glasgow, said she was "absolutely delighted'' and "still a bit in shock'' to have won the competition.
''I'm looking forward to hearing about his involvement in Social Bite and the work of his charity, Not On Our Watch. And being in the wedding business, I'm also really interested to find out how involved he was in planning his wedding to Amal,`` she said.
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. The fact that he not only sampled the food himself but also pre-paid meals for homeless people to claim later made it extra special.''
One Social Bite staff member who met Clooney was kitchen worker Sonny Murray, who was homeless two years ago.
The 36-year-old said: "Only two years ago I was living on the streets of Edinburgh with a heroin addiction and unable to even afford to eat.
"Today I'm in full-time employment, have an amazing family and I just made lunch for one of the biggest stars on the planet.
"George genuinely seems like a great guy and it was a really special moment when he came into Social Bite to see what it is all about.''
Clooney fan Sandi Pringle, 57, and her daughter Kirsten, 22, from Portobello in Edinburgh, were first in line to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood star.
They arrived outside Social Bite at 7am and said it was worth the long wait to grab a selfie and a hug with Clooney.
Kirsten, a nurse, said: "It's been absolutely freezing, there was nobody else here when we first arrived but then George turned up and he came over to get a selfie with me before he went into the shop.
"Then when he came outside again, I was so happy to get a photo of him with my mum because she is the big fan. That photo will be getting framed and going on the mantelpiece.
"He just asked how cold I was and I said 'I'm blooming freezing'. Then he said to mum: 'Of course I will get a picture with you darling,' and she was welling up.''
Sandi, a health visitor, said: "I'm so happy, I've had a cuddle with George Clooney . Suddenly my feet warmed up after standing here for three hours.
"I love George, I can't even tell you when it started - I just think he seems like such a nice man, he does a lot for charity.''