Week ??/ Event One
I can’t remember what I did from week to week at PETA UK now, so I’ll have to carry on my memoirs by remembering particular times – in this case my first event.
I started interning at PETA in mid October and World Vegan Month (November), kicking off with World Vegan Day (the 1st) was fast approaching. Plans were already in place to mark the day and month with a demonstration called “Try to relate to who’s on your plate” or, the ‘plate demo’. This event comprised of a very real-looking but larger-than-life plate of the familiar stake, chips and peas – with ketchup – but instead of steak, there was to be a model. The model was the gorgeous and lovely TV personality Sarah-Jane Honeywell. All there was left to do was to locate and collect gigantic-sized plate, food and cutlery.
Now, sometimes you can have a great idea but it turns out the practicality of it is a lot harder than you first imagined. Events at PETA tended to go this way. Great ideas but, how the hell to pull them off? I must have spent hours, mounting up to days, staring at a computer screen, manically searching through Google results for the strangest things. In this case cutlery, plate, chips and peas all of gigantic size. After trawling through and ringing round every model makers and prop shop in the Greater London area, only the cutlery was to be found. Cue me, the campaigns coordinator Abi and office manager Elisa, all mucking in to hand make the chips, peas and plate.
The peas in the end were extra large polystyrene balls found at a model makers spray painted green. The chips blocks of wood painted yellow. The plate was made from flat sheets of polystyrene, sandwiched together with a rim stuck on around the outside. Et voilà! a scrummy looking plate of wood and plastic. The only thing that was real, apart from Sarah-Jane, was the ketchup! And as it turned out, quite a bad idea as it seeped into the polystyrene plate and after being in the sun for a bit, didn’t end up smelling very nice.
Events like this one are a bit like birthdays, or Christmas, or a big meal that you have been slaving all day to make – gone in the blink of an eye. Dragging the gigantic dining set through the London Underground to get to Trafalgar Square, we set up in a matter of minutes while the cawing, vulture-like press photographers jostled into position. Bang on midday, Sarah-Jane came out of a taxi from around the corner, whipped of her dressing gown and lay down onto the plate with only a slinky pair of nude coloured knickers and her hands to cover her modesty. Snap snap snap, and then the photographers were off on their next assignment. Job done.
The hours searching and running out to collect things and the worry and frustration DID pay off for this event. The plate demo got coverage in lots of newspapers and online magazines and even featured in the last round of Have I Got News for You. The more coverage, the greater reach and the greater chance of touching people enough so they make the decision to leave suffering out from their diet. The success of the event I think, was down to the strong imagery and simplicity of the message – your food is not a what, but a who.