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:

Guerrilla tactics for sustainable transport

1. Organise a Parking Meter Party
Pay for a bay. The going rate on the meter for as long as you want to party. Place a model car in the space – just to show that you are parked there. Bring some deckchairs and a table, a nicely chilled bottle of white wine, elegant wine flutes and some delicious snacks. Enjoy. But at the same time, spread the word. Have leaflets to give out to passers-by. You could even invite them to come and join your party. Maybe, they will be committed enough to the cause to take the adjacent parking bay. You can organise your party to promote sustainable transport solutions, or just to have a ball. Either way, you will be reducing the parking capacity of the street (temporarily) and having a lot of fun. Canada seems to be the world centre for promoting this sort of street event. You can get some tips on organising a Parking Meter Party from:

2. Print out some fake parking tickets
The Alliance Against Urban 4x4s seeks to educate people about the environmental and social damage caused by the increasing numbers of urban 4x4s that we have been seeing in cities as well as to promote more sustainable forms of transport. They are lobbying for increases in congestion charges and road taxes for 4x4s, and trying to get a ban on advertising 4x4s in mainstream media.

Their campaigning activities aim to be peaceful, creative, eye-catching and constructive. They want to engage drivers in the debate and not demonise those who drive oversize 4x4s. Everyone wants to have a safer, cleaner environment, so the hope is that urban 4x4 drivers will realise that their car is the villain (not them) and that this could lead them to making better transport choices in future.

A small number of 4x4 models have carbon emissions less damaging than most, and these could be chosen by people who genuinely need a 4x4. However, most 4x4s are large, highly polluting and dangerous to others on narrow streets. Apart from those need to drive off-road, tow heavy loads or engage in other activities for which 4x4s are specially designed, SUVs are a nuisance to others and bad for the environment.

One tactic used to campaign against SUVs in cities is to place a fake parking ticket on the windshield, which gives information on all the reasons for not driving this sort of vehicle. It might also cause the driver a few moments of worry until they realise what the parking ticket actually is. You can download fake parking tickets from the Alliance against Urban 4x4s website:

In the USA, over 1 million fake tickets served on SUV drivers in 500 cities in 48 States:

3. Draw your own cycle lanes
Hywell Sedjwick-Jell writes… “Every time I see a cyclist struggling through the traffic, I feel a surge of rage growing from my stomach and spreading to my chest and then heading towards my cheeks. That’s when I start thinking about how I might be able to find a way to help, something that will also help me the next time I cycle down that road.”

It started in Latvia, where cyclists had the idea of drawing their own cycle lanes in the narrow congested streets of Riga. One evening in the UK, Hywel went out with chalk in his hands to do the same in a street he cycled down every day… Barker Drive in Camden Town, north London. “It didn’t have a bike lane. I was sick of holding my breath in fear every time I heard the rev of a car engine behind me. I wanted something that would separate me from the street and keep cars away. Maybe if I drew a cycle lane, people would start thinking that there really should be one and start asking for one. I know I certainly would.”

“Cycling is something that should be preserved as precious, and encouraged. When I’m cycling, I’m saving the city from pollution. I’m diminishing raffic. I’m not taking up places in the bus or on the subway; And I’m generally creating a nicer environment for everyone.”

“I usually go out on the streets to draw at about 1.00am. I prefer doing it when there aren’t too many people around. I’ve never checked whether what I’m doing is legal. Yes, I am drawing on public property, but the chalk dissolves when it rains.. I would like people, especially cyclists, to be aware that it is their right to demand bike paths. Maybe someone rushing to work one morning will notice my cycle lane and think “I could send a letter to the Council or to my MP.” [from The Guardian newspaper]