The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

27 February 2009

Celebrating Sarah-ness

Nearly every year, two friends called Sarah at America’s Burning Man festival, host a party for all the Sarahs there. A Sarah Party, where Sarahs gather to share food, music, stories about their names, and inevitably debate the with or without an ‘h’ issue.

In 2003 Sarah Pletts met Sarah Jane Hall at the festival and they attended the Sarah Party together. They subsequently decided it would be fun to host a Sarah Party in London. This is how they describe the experience:

Having a name that seemed to be shared by many means that I work hard to differentiate myself. I never really enjoyed being a Sarah until I went to the Sarah Party at the Burning Man festival. It transformed the way I felt about my name. Suddenly it was fun and exciting, and I wanted to pass on the experience to others.

I and some of my Sarah-friends agreed to host a Sarah Party on a whim. It never occurred to me that it might be difficult to find enough Sarahs to make it happen, as there always seemed to be plenty of them in my life, but as the day grew nearer, it became the biggest challenge. Literally hundreds of Sarahs were approached and invited to the party. I e-mailed all the Sarahs I knew, then my whole address book. I asked everyone I met if they knew any Sarahs. I googled them, and I made a sign to try and track them down at a festival. Most of them were wary of my strange approach. They could be forgiven for thinking I was mad.

The Sarahs brave and lucky enough to be able to be there at my Sarah Party on Sunday 29th June 2008 were an extraordinary and diverse group of wonderful people. It really was a delight to meet them.

We tried to theme every aspect of the party within our limited budget. On arrival everyone received a name badge, and a tiara. There was a shrine to honour past Sarahs. Poems were written and read, there were Sarah songs and the extraordinary singer Sarah Jane Morris performed with guitarist Dominic Miller. There were games, a quiz, yoga, massage and juggling, a raffle with MC Sarah Bennetto. We showed a film starring Sara Dee who played 'Sarah'. Sara Leigh Lewis took photographs, and we ate food that spelled our name while drinking 'Sarandipity' cocktails.

We don't know exactly how many came, but there are 59 in the group photo and we know of quite a few who left before or arrived after it. Our guess is about 75. Everyone who came participated and added to the spirit of playfulness.

I didn't expect the whole experience to be quite so fulfilling, and quite such hard work. Through the Burning Man community - which has an ethos of 'gifting' and participation, I have discovered new possibilities for enjoying life and expressing my passions creatively. Doing something for fun can be surprisingly radical. My aim was to inspire and please, and in so doing send out ripples for others to taste and follow their own pleasure. Celebrate your Sarah-ness, express your unique-ness!

And if you are not a Sarah, but a Mary or a Michael, then follow the example of the Sarah’s and organise your own Michael or Mary party to celebrate your Michael-ness of Mary-ness….

Two out of the ten things about being Sarah by Sarah Salway:
• My uncle made a speech at my wedding. ‘Sarah,’ he said, ‘is harass backwards, and he has certainly always been very good at that.’
• Sarah, Sarha, Sahra… how hard is it to spell? Once, after three attempts over the telephone, the man on the other end told me crossly that it would be easier if I’d been called ‘banana.’

The top 10 boys names in the UK in 2007 (according to the Office of National Statistics):

And the top 10 girls names in the UK in 2007

Burning Man is an annual art event and temporary community based on radical self-expression and self-reliance and held at the start of September in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Find out more about Burning Man. Go along and join in if you are looking for something different:


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