News special: Make Poverty History - Edinburgh set for the main event

At least 100,000 people are set to converge on Edinburgh for the Make Poverty History rally on Saturday in the culmination of the biggest charity campaign ever staged.

A programme of events will be taking place from tomorrow, including lectures, free concerts and various religious services. There will also be a series of fringe events in the city that will continue until 7 July.

At The Meadows, which will be the main rally site, there will be four principal zones: Contempl8ion, Gener8ion, the children's zone and the campaign zone. The first will have stalls from faith groups, the second will consist of young people's charities and in the campaign zone there will be workshops by organisations such as VSO for small charities wanting to improve their campaigning skills.

The rally marks a crucial point in the campaign and is intended to maximise pressure on the G8 leaders to drop the developing world's debt, ahead of the summit from 6-8 July. All eyes will be on Gleneagles and the outcome of the meeting will ultimately determine if the campaign goes down in history as a success or a well-intentioned attempt to improve life for the world's poor.

The rally will also be the culmination of eight months of painstaking preparation by a core group of 20 people. The highlight will be when all the demonstrators circle the city to create a giant human wristband that will be at least twice the size of the one formed in Birmingham for the Jubilee 2000 campaign.

Kirsty McNeil, who is a member of MPH's co-ordination team and has been heavily involved in planning the rally, said: "Of course, a lot of hard work has gone into it but we haven't been prevented from doing anything we want to do. The biggest challenge has been getting the message to people that this is about justice, not charity. We want people to make their way to Edinburgh, not get their cheque books out."

Newspaper reports suggesting that 200,000 people are preparing to make their way to the Scottish capital are exaggerated, says McNeil. "We have worked closely with the city council and the police and there has never been any disquiet about numbers," she said.

The organisers have some surprises up their sleeves, but are keeping their lips sealed. McNeil added: "People should keep their eyes peeled for a big iconic statement. This is going to be the biggest event of the decade."

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