April 23 was National Shakespeare Day. It was also St George’s Day and the United Nations’ World Book and Copyright Day, which was a natural choice to pay a worldwide tribute to writers such as Shakespeare.
Last Wednesday 18 April was World Heritage Day and the city of Bath took full opportunity of that as did Historic Scotland’s ‘Shadows of Our Ancestors’ project which was streamed live online by creative industry students from Cumbernauld College. I confess (shamefaced) that I missed the significance of last Wednesday. But is it any wonder?
Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen an explosion of special days and national awareness days, weeks and months. Just looking at what May has to offer – in addition to two bank holidays – I discovered it is local and community history month. It is also National Share a Story Month, though I was disappointed to see that this seems to have an almost exclusively children’s focus.
The month kicks off with National Windsurfing week from 1-8 May – it is also Compost Awareness week, though probably best not to attempt to celebrate these two themes at the same time.
If you’re munching your way through National Doughnut Week between 7-14 May, remember that 14 May is World Fairtrade Day, so check the provenance of that sticky bun. But don’t eat too many because this year we celebrate 250 years of sandwiches between 15-22 May.
Of course, we all appreciate that many awareness days and weeks have a serious dimension. They are opportunities to draw attention to some very big and significant world issues and to raise money for charity.
Some also provide a hook to get people involved in doing something new or different. It can be a way to get people with shared interests to get together and for businesses and organisations to showcase their products together to create more impact. Some of these special days offer particularly good opportunities for destinations and visitor attractions because they provide a reason to visit now. They can be ‘just for fun’ or have an educational dimension – for example opening up opportunities for people to learn about history or wildlife. The special day can be more than just an excuse for promotion; it can have a thoughtful purpose as well.
This year we have a bumper crop of one-off special days with the centenary of the Titanic and the Diamond Jubilee; days worthy of special commemoration.
However outside of these I suspect that the proliferation of special days generally has resulted in national awareness day fatigue and seriously weakened the impact of individual special days.
So before you decide to volunteer your attraction or destination to take part in any of these days, think about who is listening and what else is happening at the same time. Choose the ones most likely to have resonance with your target audiences and find out what profile and coverage it is likely to get. Find out who else is doing something for that special day and what opportunities there are to work together and offer complementary activity. Most importantly, don’t worry if you miss one special day, there will be another along very shortly.