In Focus: Iain Wooley, founder of the 48 hour toilet lock in challenge

Photo credit: Alex Longson
Photo credit: Alex Longson
Photo credit: Alex Longson

Ex St Andrews Student Iain Woolley took on a new kind of challenge for charity last Sunday. Forget about the Ice Bucket Challenge – this is a 48 hour toilet lock in. Pretty self-explanatory, it involves Iain being locked in a toilet in his flat for 48 hours, with only a few essential items.

The overall aim of the challenge was to raise money for the Bladder and Bowel Foundation, which Iain says is “a charity that I’ve admired a lot they do a lot of fantastic work. My stepdad had bowel cancer, so it’s been for him as well. It’s just sort of all tied together really. All charity for me is great. Anyone that wants to raise money and awareness for charity, I would always support that. If you can then also give the donors something back and make it an interactive thing, then that makes it even better. It makes it more fun for the people donating, it adds that extra element.”

The challenge was documented by Iain’s friend, the sports journalist Tim Oliver, who acted as referee as well as live blogging the entire challenge.

But why 48 hours? “I suggested 24 hours to some close friends”, he explained, “and Tim Oliver straight away told me that just wasn’t enough pain, so he doubled it to 48. I trusted his opinion on that, so we will see!”

When asked why he had chosen a toilet specifically, of all places, Iain replied: “I’ve no personal desire to get locked in a toilet! It came from a crazy idea a couple of years ago. We were just thinking about ideas (to make money for charity) – I was probably drunk or something, and we came up with the idea of a toilet lock in.” One of Iain’s main inspirations for the challenge, aside from alcohol, was the Ice Bucket Challenge that swept across the media this summer. “Seeing the ice bucket challenge in the summer, it was a great craze, probably because it combined people suffering and their friends and donors getting to see them suffer and laugh at them, creating entertainment. I asked myself how do we top that? Then this idea came back into my head from a couple of years ago, and I thought – yes! It would definitely be people suffering a lot, and it could be a lot of entertainment!”

This entertainment is going to be provided in the form of a live feed, which will be accessible all Sunday and afterwards. Iain explained: “People can ask questions and post them under the door, and I can answer them and pass them back. It will be fun for everyone else at least. As long as I don’t come out – that’s the key thing. People could come in, but there’s not a lot of room in there.”

[pullquote]It is a charity that I’ve admired a lot they do a lot of fantastic work. My stepdad had bowel cancer, so it’s been for him as well[/pullquote]

Among the items Iain will be taking in with him for the 48 hours, are those he deemed essential: a loaf of bread, a cup to get water from the tap and a clock, “to give me some sense of sanity, so I can actually see time passing.”

The other items have been chosen by his friends and include some very bizarre things. “I’ve got Sunset Song, the book that put me
off reading forever – up until now. I loath this book with a passion. People have taunted me about it, it’s just my least favourite book, and it’s put me off reading up until now so I’m really interested to see if I will actually pick it up and read it.

I’ve got a tax textbook, which is probably the most boring book you could possibly imagine – questions and exercises, really boring. I’ve got a picture of Neil Lennon – he’s my least favourite football manager. And the last item was requested by my cousin, who wanted me to take in a gay porn magazine!”

With these last two, Iain admits there is one problem. “The room is too small to hide things, so I’ll be forced to see them for 48 hours.”

When asked which he thinks will be the first item he succumbs to because of boredom, Iain chose the tax textbook. “It’s literally the lesser of four evils,” he said and is actually of some use to him for his job. “I really hope I don’t read the gay porn magazine”, he continues. “I hope I don’t reach that stage….maybe Sunset Song, which is quite a bombshell really for anyone who has ever known me.”

One of the main issues with so much time in such a small space is sleep – and there’s no chance of sneaking a pillow in. “I have whatever is in the bathroom, which I think is two towels and a bath mat. Nothing new, just the bathroom as it is. It’s definitely going to be a challenge.”

So what does Iain think he’s going to miss the most? “Probably a lot of things,” he said. “I’m not naturally a claustrophobic person, but having gone into the room and seen how small it is, it’s quite claustrophobic, with no daylight because it’s got no windows.”

[pullquote]Like the ice bucket challenge I’m going to nominate some of my friends. Maybe not everyone will do 48 hours, maybe just 10 hours. Anyone can do 10 hours to raise money for charity[/pullquote]

“I’m also interested because I’m not actually allowed my phone in, and everyone’s so dependent on technology now and obsessed with it. I look at my phone every five minutes, so to not look at it for 48 hours is going to be quite testing.”

So without a bed, decent food and technology, how is Iain hoping to occupy himself? Apparently the answer lies in using the bathroom to its up-most potential. “I’m going to try and keep count of how many showers I have. I’m going to perfect my shaving and my teeth are going to be extremely clean. I might do some sit-ups, my abs might be incredible by the time I come out. I was going to do press-ups but there isn’t really enough room.

“I might end up writing something, because I’ve got a pad and paper. We’ll see what sort of creative stuff I come up with. Hopefully I’ll get some sleep but I don’t know how much – and hopefully I don’t end up reading my gay porn magazine!”

After being cooped up for so long, the first thing Iain plans to do afterwards is take a long walk on the beach, but not before taking a quick trip to Munch. “I’m going to get a proper breakfast roll there with every sauce available and it’s going to taste amazing.”

[pullquote]it’s something anyone could do – it just takes a slightly madder type of person but there are plenty of those around[/pullquote]

Even before this however, Iain has another idea. “Like the ice bucket challenge I’m going to nominate some of my friends. Maybe not everyone will do 48 hours, maybe just 10 hours. Anyone can do 10 hours to raise money for charity, and friends could select a few items which are funny for them to take in. I’m going to nominate my friend Neil because he kept having a go at me for not doing the ice bucket challenge so this will be payback for him and maybe one or two other people.”

So does Iain think that the lock-in could become as popular as the Ice Bucket Challenge? “It could be, you never know…it’s something anyone could do – it just takes a slightly madder type of person but there are plenty of those around!”

So far Iain has raised a fantastic £1,058, a sum far higher than he was expecting. “The way I pitched it initially was that I wanted to get £100 to do it because if it was going to be a failure, I didn’t want to sit in a toilet for 48 hours for £6. But people kept donating up front, and I’m hoping there will be some more!”

With this incredible feat in front of him, Iain is planning to have a typical St Andrews Saturday as his last day of freedom.

“I’m going to go for a walk on the beach and stretch my legs, and I’m meeting up with some friends at night so we’re probably going to be drinking a lot, and I’m definitely going to be finishing up with a 12 inch Pizza at Empire at the end of the night, which can take me into it.”

If you wish to make a donation towards the Bladder and Bowel Foundation, you can do so at

The bathroom where Iain spent 48 hours
The bathroom where Iain spent 48 hours



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