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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Hands up if you want a week of your own
By Giles Wilson
BBC News Online

Ever noticed how under-appreciated the humble balloon is? This week is your chance to put that right, as celebrations take place for National Balloon Week.

It's the one opportunity in the year when people can, in the words of the organisers, recognise "the versatility of applications and market opportunities that balloons can offer".

While you're at it, why not mark just one of those applications by making the small logical leap and also celebrating National Condom Week, which by a happy coincidence also falls this week.

While contemplating that particular form of contraception, who would complain if you took advantage of the opportunity to indulge in a bit of National Positive Parenting Week (also this week)?

Whatever the size of people's budgets or their PR machines allow, they can do what they like
Vicki Ormiston
Campaign Awareness Register
And if that's a success, the fact of it being National Breastfeeding Awareness Week is merely a natural consequence.

Of course instead of that happy outcome, you might find other people are simultaneously indulging in National Smile Week by making the most of National Gossip Week and talking about your efforts.

You could point out to them that although it's National Feast Your Eyes Week, they should not use that as an excuse to ogle - the aim of that particular campaign is to raise awareness of what foods are good for your eyesight.

Jeff Bezos, boss of Amazon
Smile! Next week's Barbecue Week!
Advise them for their own protection to avert their eyes - and while doing so it's only responsible to remind them that dark glasses can significantly protect their eyes from the sun's harmful rays (it is Sun Awareness Week, after all).

All this talk of awareness weeks - there are at least 15 separate campaigns running this week alone - could be found irritating by some people. But probably not irritating enough to justify contacting the organisers of National Allergy Week. And certainly not enough to contact the good folk behind National Samaritans Week.

Vicki Ormiston has seen it all before. She edits the Awareness Campaign Register, run by PR firm The Profile Group, and is a rare point of contact between the thousands of charities, good causes and companies on the look-out for a bit of media attention.

Peak weeks

The number of awareness campaign weeks has soared since Christian Aid (it is also Christian Aid Week, by the way) first came up with the idea in 1957. There are now more than 500 weeks unevenly distributed throughout the year - perhaps raising the prospect that the British Horse Society's National Access Week (this week) risks becoming an also-ran.

Collecting cans
Make your point
"May is one of the very popular months, and this is one of the best weeks," says Ms Ormiston. "There are two peak times in the year for awareness campaigns - May and October - but this week is one of the most popular in the calendar."

People have got the impression that many awareness campaigns have become marketing exercises, she says. (National Gossip Week, for instance, is something of an excuse to publicise the 10th anniversary of supermarket tabloid the National Inquirer being published in the UK).

But nearly 90% of campaigns - such as ME Awareness Week (that's this week) - are run by the traditional charities and not-for-profit organisations.

You can actually do quite amazing things with balloons
Kate Walker
The Balloon Association
In the past, many charities depended on door-to-door collection for the bulk of their funds, so they guarded their own particular week jealously. But now much funding-raising is done by direct debit - hence "chuggers" or charity muggers in shopping streets asking passers-by if they can spare a minute. The charities' weeks therefore have become more a tool for raising awareness than funds.

And despite occasional talk by MPs to try to regulate matters, the whole thing is still a free-for-all.

"There's no official body for awareness campaigns," says Ms Ormiston. "People can do as they see fit, whatever the size of their budgets or their PR machines allows, they can do what they like.

Street fundraising
Action has switched to the streets
"I can't stop anyone doing anything, but they do ask me for advice and I can tell them who they are up against."

So spare a thought for the organisers of National Balloon Week in their effort to persuade people that balloons are not just for Christmas.

"A lot of people don't know how versatile balloons can be," says spokeswoman Kate Walker.

"They think it's just a matter of having a string of balloons for a birthday party, and that's it - but it's not. You can actually do quite amazing things with balloons. So the week is to raise awareness of that.

"And people still think balloons are made of plastic, but they're not, they're made out of latex, so they are biodegradable. So Balloon Week is an educational thing as well."

Coming next week (among others): National Vegetarian Week, National BBQ Week

Want a week of your own? Suggest what this week should really mark, using the form below.

Your comments so far:

Clearly, it should be National Awareness of National Awareness Weeks Week this week!
Brian, Oxford, UK

National Week Week Celebrating the wonders of the seven days ("It's Tuesday! Huzzah!")
National Weak Week Raising awareness of the biceply challenged
Jim Hinder, UK

I think we should have a National No Advertising week. We are all way overdue a holiday from them. Our brains need a chance to be free from brainwashing.
John Sims, UK

Perhaps we need a National Awareness week for People Inundated by Charity Requests.

This should be National Simon Mills Financial Boosting Week. Everyone in the country should donate 1 to me. The benefit to this country is that I would then be very rich and able to spend large amounts of money due to this influx of funds thus creating jobs and boosting the economy. Surely a good thing?
Simon Mills, UK

I propose a National Stay in Bed Week, where for the whole seven days no-one works: except politicians, who have far too many holidays as it is.
Christopher Teague, Wales, UK

How about "National No Reality TV Shows Week" ?
Luke Wilson, UK

Oh Shame! How could you omit to mention Adult Learners' Week 10-16 May, organised by NIACE? Of which Friday May 16 is Silver Surfers' Day promoted by Hairnet, the IT training company for older learners.
Peter Head, UK

A press release on our intranet at work also informs us it is National Bedwetting Awareness Week.
Mike Tasker, UK

I would like to propose a National Squirrel Awareness Week. There just isn't enough being done for squirrels. You try buying a squirrel product - there's millions of teddy this and teddy thats. Where's the squirrels, that's what I want to know !
Squirrel, UK

Didn't you know it's National Sandwich Week?
Christine, UK National No one's listening to my suggestions Week???????
Stine, UK

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