Kate Simon: Hands off bank holidays...unless you're adding one

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The Independent Travel

So, tourism chiefs want to move the first of the May bank holidays to the autumn.

After all, with four of our Bank holidays landing in April and May in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (three in Scotland), wouldn't it be more useful for Britain's tourism industry if one of them fell later in the year?

The tourism minister, John Penrose, is open to the idea of ditching the traditional May Day holiday for a day off later in the year. He's reported – in true let's-all-pull-together speak – as saying that an autumn bank holiday, possibly branded UK Day, "would not only help the [tourism] industry but also give us all a new focus for celebrating the best of what this country does, and all the things that make us a world-class nation".

Of course, the Government would rejoice at junking a holiday dedicated to workers' solidarity at a time when its austerity measures are beginning to hit the homes of every working person in the country. But, while urging that careful consideration be given to the idea, Mr Penrose adds that "if people decide they'd rather hang on to the May Day holiday, then so be it". So, it's change May Day, or put up with the long slog from the August Bank holiday to Christmas Day.

Truth is, May Day is always identified as the bank holiday to move. Its roots may be pagan, but what sticks in the craw of some business folk and politicians is that this holiday was introduced by a Labour government in the 1970s and is associated with International Labour Day, a celebration of the struggle of working people. And to rebrand a Bank holiday as UK Day or Trafalgar Day would be the icing on the cake for a Prime Minister trying to push the dangerous old argument that multiculturalism hasn't worked and the only way to defeat terrorism is enforced patriotism.

I say leave May Day alone. The tourism industry should be lobbying the Government to give us an extra day off in autumn instead. As Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, said last week, we could all do with another public holiday because, as it is, we've got the "stingiest allocation in Europe".


Glasgow restaurant The Ubiquitous Chip is celebrating its 40th birthday with a very unusual offering – the world's first 3D dining experience. Next month, the groundbreaking eaterie will roll out a menu entitled "Ingr3dients", which allows diners to enjoy special dishes while interacting with digital art installations by Alasdair Gray and Debs Norton, featuring Morag the Highland Cow, a leaping salmon, and a flock of wood pigeons.

A friend and I once went to a restaurant where the management saw fit to let a trumpeter wander the room to improvise against a jazz CD on the sound system. After we'd stopped crying with laughter from the sheer pretentiousness of it all, we spent the rest of the evening acquiring a headache from having to shout to hold a conversation. I wish The Ubiquitous Chip a happy birthday, but I must admit I prefer to dine out where entertainment isn't on the menu.

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