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< Ideas Bank, < Economic wellbeing
< Regeneration, < New Start editorial index page

If you had to name some of our bank holidays, what would you call them? Given this would be a retrospective exercise, perhaps something that reflects what most of us were doing on Monday. National Lawn Mowing Day? Queue Up At Ikea Day? Fall For The Carpet Warehouse Half Price Sale (Must End Tuesday) Day?

That’s the trouble with most public holidays in this country, no one’s telling us what to use them for. So that’s one thing the TUC, Volunteering England, the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action, National Council for Voluntary Organisations and CSV have got going for their latest campaign.

They want Gordon Brown to make one of the first things he does as prime minister to be the declaration of a new national public holiday - community day - to promote a society ‘where voluntary activity flourishes and where all individuals and communities are enabled to play a full part in civil society’. The idea is it would celebrate the work of community and voluntary groups across the country and encourage others to become more active.

Sounds like a no-brainer with very little persuasion required. If Mr Brown agreed to this instant vote winner, the first one would be in October 2009. When’s the next general election likely to be?

And that’s not all this campaign has going for it. England and Wales currently have just eight holidays, only Romania has less in the whole of Europe. Scotland is only a day better off.

Then there are the laudable aims: the TUC reckons a community day would contribute towards cohesion, improve skills and wellbeing and benefit the economy in the long run. The recognition it would give to the sector alone ought to be reason enough, but if such a day achieved just a fraction of these objectives it would be worth it.

A new public holiday with a clearly defined purpose and a well-planned build up could have the potential to eventually snowball into a powerful vehicle for change, linking in with the government’s active citizenship agenda.

Of course, there is the small matter of competition for Mr Brown’s attention – the growing campaign to make St George’s Day a national holiday for England. But do we really need another day to queue up at the DIY superstore or mow the lawn?

Austin Macauley, editor, New Start Online magazine

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