The National Year of Reading

As senior publicist for Hill and Knowlton on the Government’s National Year of Reading, my main responsibilities were coming up with ideas and selling them to journalists.

We wanted mass awareness, so I recommended that we launch the campaign by getting the Home Secretary on the set of the nation’s favourite soap. David Blunkett was seen on ITN, BBC News and pictured in every national pulling a pint with Bianca in the Eastenders’ Queen Vic.

Later in the year I was asked for more ideas when levels of coverage were dropping. My suggestions were recording a CD anthology of celebrities reading their favourite love poems for Valentine’s day, sending it to radio stations around the country, linking with Whitbread to print poems on beermats and pub urinals for National Poetry Day.

To take advantage of the quiet Christmas period, I advised working with the Bookseller Magazine to release a news story on a dramatic increase of book sales coinciding with the Christmas rush. I called it Barmy Britons go Bonkers for Books. In the new year I asked top media psychologist Jane Firbank to write a report interpreting the nation’s reading habits over the past three decades.

Apart from being one of my most enjoyable jobs, the campaign had a total audience reach of 583 million – 715 articles and 185 broadcast pieces.

Click on the word ‘Poems’ below to hear a sample.


1. Trevor McDonald reading She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron
2. Neil Pearson reading May I feel Said He by EE Cummings
3. Johnny Vaughan reading Never Seek to Tell Thy Love by William Blake
4. Patsy Palmer reading Remember by Christina G Rossetti
5. Nicholas Owen reading Love’s Philosophy by Shelley
6. Kelly Brook reading Valentine by John Fuller
7. Lesley Joseph reading He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by WB Yeats
8. Fiona Phillips reading Valentine by Wendy Cope
9. Andrew Harvey reading Coat by Vicki Feaver

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