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Let’s mark the best of British with a new public holiday

 Published on: 26th February 2013   |   By: Nik Allen

When the people who work for me read this they will be shocked: I think we need another public holiday on the annual calendar. We need to set aside a day each year to celebrate everything that is great about Britain, from fish and chips to football, and from curry to Coronation Street.

It’s not a new idea (it pains me to say Gordon Brown, one of my least favourite PMs of modern times talked about it back in 2009), but one which got put on the backburner while we celebrated William and Kate’s wedding in 2011 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last year.

But with those two landmark celebrations behind us, I think it is time to reignite the debate about creating a special day to unite all of Britain. The Americans have the 4th of July and the French have Bastille Day. Britain needs a day of its own.

jubilee 1 edit

Residents of Shepherds Way in Rickmansworth celebrating the Diamond Jubilee

Why will my staff be so surprised at my stance? Well at heart I’m a businessman and, as callous as it sounds, I’ve never met a true businessman or woman happy to give people time off. I’m sure many entrepreneurs would argue we can’t afford to have another public holiday (a group called the Centre for Economics and Business Research says each public holiday costs the British economy a whopping £2.3 billion).

But I think huge gains could be made as a result of having a national day. The Royal Wedding and Diamond Jubilee celebrations brought communities together. People who had lived side by side for years, exchanging only cursory nods in the street, starting talking to each other and became neighbours.

Street parties united whole neighbourhoods and that sense of Britishness – that keep calm and carry on despite the pouring rain and the soggy scones attitude – was revived.

Some will argue that the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend serves as a national day and perhaps for the royalists it does. But let’s face it while the Scots and the Welsh may make use of the time off work, does it really represent them?

Jubilee celebrations

Jill Kempster at the Chiltern Sports and Social Club in Maple Cross dressed as the Queen at last year’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations

I think there are long term economic and social benefits of bringing the community together. Groups such as the aforementioned Centre for Economics and Business Research won’t have measured them. But if Britain is to navigate its way in a modern world, with a changing global order, it needs to be united and innovative and a national day might just start the ball rolling in this direction.


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