British tomato fortnight: the problem with food 'awareness' weeks
British Tomato Fortnight shows how bad things have got
I’m sure you’ll have it marked down in your calendar already, but in case you forgot, the 25th May to 7th June is British Tomato Fortnight. For reference, it comes just after British Sandwich Week (17th – 23rd) and National Vegetarian Week (11th – 17th). Rather awkwardly, it overlaps English Wine Week (23rd – 31st – this has been delayed until June), National Barbecue Week (25th – 31st) and National Biscuit Day (29th). Let’s hope that doesn’t cause too much drama.
In fact, if you pay attention, you quickly discover that almost every day of the year has been dedicated to raising ‘awareness’ for one thing or another, even if the majority of these dedications slip beneath the radar. How did you celebrate 19th January? Or National Popcorn Day, as it is also known? And have you started your preparation yet for the 21st to 27th September, when we’ll be celebrating World Reflexology Week? I always struggle with the stress of going from that straight into Red Squirrel Week, from the 28th September to 4th October. Putting away all those decorations just to get out the next lot is so exhausting… I think you get the point: these awareness weeks are numerous, endless and ignorable.
But what does it mean to host an awareness day, week, fortnight or month? Generally, it involves little more than a few talks from industry figures, some lurid promotional materials and an unintentionally quiet social media campaign. One of the reasons that these weeks are such consistent flops is because, while barbeques, tomatoes and sandwiches are very nice to eat, there really is very little to say about them. Certainly not enough to occupy a week of events.
And, like anything, the significance of these days is diluted with every new addition to the list. By adding their efforts to the pile, the British Tomato Growers Association bury themselves amid a host of other industry sectors looking to make this their special time of year. But worse than that, they reduce the significance of everyone who’s already celebrating a day, week or month.
Although, thinking about it, maybe that’s the intention. Perhaps the heads of the British Tomato Growers Association sat around the board room table as National Sandwich Week stole all the headlines and thought that they could nullify other sectors’ efforts by launching their own little something.
The most baffling part of the whole thing is the choice to dedicate an entire fortnight to tomatoes. I realise that people in the tomato industry probably find tomatoes significantly more interesting than your average man on the street, but surely they can’t misjudge the public’s feelings so greatly as to think that our attention span for tomato related talks, events and recipes is two weeks long. This is a world in which the most pressing news stories pass from urgent to forgotten within 48 hours. To think that we might stick with tomatoes for 336 hours is overly ambitious, to say the least.
In many ways, the dilution of these awareness periods is a shame, because awareness weeks often have noble intentions. Black History Month, International Women’s Day and Veganuary are just three examples of celebratory days or months that were established to try to make the world a better place, rather than to drum up extra business. Now, every food manufacturer has twigged that if you want to shift more stock, then you pick a date and release the promotional materials.