Mystery hand hands out free smiles when the clock strikes three on Castle Street

Lucky members of the public have bagged various prizes and gifts over the last two days after a ‘mystery hand’ installation popped up in Edinburgh city centre.

The interactive billboard was set up on Castle Street on Monday and Tuesday, with free gestures of goodwill having been handed out to the public on behalf of children’s cleft charity Smile Train.

The board featured a giant digital clock along with the words ‘When the clock hits three, take a smile for free.’ Every three minutes, when the clock reached its ‘03:00’ target, a hand emerged from a mysterious slot to give out a free gift to one fortunate member of the public – in a bid to get them beaming.

A range of well established brands have associated themselves with the local mission of generosity. From Virgin Experience Days Gift Cards to everlasting flower bouquets, passersby got their hands on many grin-giving gifts which were up for grabs.

Members of the public bagged various free gifts on Castle Street

The handouts, which were donated by a mixture of local businesses and major brands, also included Anastacia Tour Tickets, children’s books from HarperCollins, tickets to any show in The Pleasance Theatre Trust’s Edinburgh Fringe Kidzone Programme, Escape Room and Magic Bubblers tickets from the Department of Magic, everlasting flower bouquet from Dried Edinburgh, tickets to The Muppets Christmas Carol – Live with Orchestra – at Usher Hall, nutritionally complete snacks from Huel, 3D printed vitamins from Nourished, and a Therabody Wave Duo vibrating roller massage ball.

The idea behind the project was to mark National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month, which takes place throughout July.

Every three minutes, a baby is born around the world with a cleft lip or palate; a serious medical condition that can jeopardise their ability to eat, breathe, speak, and smile. Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft charity, wanted to help highlight this stark figure to the public and encourage them to consider the power of smiling.

Ian Vallance, Smile Train UK Director, said: “Every three minutes another baby is born somewhere around the world, struggling to breathe, speak, and eat due to a cleft. Our billboard installation on Castle Street intends to educate more people in the UK about the impact that cleft can have on children, particularly in countries where treatment isn’t readily available, whilst helping to spread some smiles in the process.

The mystery hand popped out every three minutes to give a special gift

“A big thank you to all of the brands and businesses who have graciously donated to us for this event. There are some fantastic gifts to be given out, so we encourage people to get down to Castle Street early to be in with a chance of receiving one – along with some information about Smile Train and our work. Together we can change the world one smile at a time.”

A cleft is the most common facial difference globally, affecting around 1 in 700 babies. In the UK, cleft surgery is carried out within the first 12 months of a baby’s life by the National Health Service (NHS).

However, hundreds of thousands of children living in resource-poor communities worldwide do not have access to the lifesaving cleft treatment they desperately need.

Smile Train's sustainable model empowers local medical professionals with training, funding, and resources to provide free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children globally. Since 1999, Smile Train has supported safe and quality cleft care for 1.5+ million children and will continue to do so until every person in need with a cleft has access to the care they deserve.

International children's cleft charity hand out free smiles to those passing the mystery hand