We’ve had lots of experience in working with HMD activity organisers and we know that whilst it’s not possible to plan for every eventuality in your activity, we hope that some of these points will assist you as you approach HMD.
Who makes the decisions?
If you are working with a steering group or an outside agency, be clear from the outset where final decisions on content, venue, attendance and participants are made. It may be yourself alone, or perhaps a group of people with overall responsibility. If this is established at the outset and communicated with all of those who are involved, you will avoid confusion during your planning stages.
Dates for your activity
Holocaust Memorial Day will always be on 27 January, as it was on this date that Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated. It may not however be the most suitable day of the week for you to hold your activity.
Activites take place throughout the two weeks around HMD, and if you are planning for HMD 2018 you need to be aware that 27 January 2018 will be a Saturday. If you are holding your activity on this day and either a Holocaust survivor or your Jewish community is attending, be aware of Shabbat as some people may prefer not to take part in events during the day. Also think about when most people will be able to attend – evenings and weekends are better for those in work.
Needless to say, it will be cold in January when HMD takes place. Make sure you have a contingency plan and the contact details of your attendees so that you can let them know in the event of having to cancel your event due to bad weather. Many HMD activities do take place outside, so if yours does, make sure you tell your audience to wrap up warm.
Be aware of how long you can keep the attention of your audience for. Most experts say that the average attention span is 10 – 20 minutes for adults, so keep your event varied and, where appropriate, interactive. Keep speeches concise and to the point, and make sure your participants are clear on how long they have to speak – and make them stick to it. If you have access to volunteers, you could ask one to stand at the back of the room facing the speaker and hold up a sheet of paper to inform the speaker that they need to finish. If you are fortunate enough to have a survivor speak at your event, make sure they are aware of your time constraints at the outset as some may not be able to tell their story within your time frame.
If you have primary age students involved in your programme, it may not be appropriate to have them present in the room whilst the rest of your activity is taking place – but if they are, ensure that there is something to keep them interested.
If a survivor is speaking at your event, make sure they are fully briefed on how long they have to speak and whether a screen will be available for presentations if you or they are showing any images. Make sure they are comfortable with any images you show. You can read our guidance on suitable images.
For unavoidable reasons, survivors may have to cancel attendance at your activity. If this happens at the last minute, consider showing the HMD film (you don’t need a license to do so) or play a podcast.
During the six years we have run HMD we have only heard of two protests taking place at HMD activities. Although it is a very rare occurence, it is best to be prepared. If your activity will be open to the general public, do let your local police service know about it, they may be able to supply specific information for your local community.
If it is possible, ask attendees to register in advance. That way, you know who is coming and you can contact them afterwards to participate in your evaluation.
If an individual or group protests at your event, do not allow their protest to become the focus of your activity. Everyone in the UK has a right to peaceful protest and this right must be respected. However, if the protester is disrupting your activity ask them politely to retake their seat as a mark of respect for HMD and offer to discuss their issues with them at a later date. If they refuse, ask them politely to leave and if they will not, alert your venue security or appropriate contact and have them removed from the premises.
You may wish to offer refreshments at your HMD activity. This can offer an opportunity for your participants and audience to meet informally to share what they have experienced during your event. If you choose to do this, it’s important to remember that people will have different dietary requirements based on their beliefs. You may wish to offer Kosher or Halal menus, although offering a vegetarian menu is a suitable alternative for many. If you are offering alcoholic drinks, ensure that soft drinks are also available.
Sharing food and drink from different cultures can help to foster an element of understanding between religions and cultures. You could invite people to bring along traditional dishes from their culture to share at the event. As the act of genocide is an attempt to destroy cultures as well as murdering individuals, by sharing in this way you can make a powerful statement about protecting and celebrating cultures. Survivors of the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides often speak of the hunger and starvation they have faced. You may wish to signify this by including an empty plate amongst the refreshments on offer.
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