March 26th is a big day for the epilepsy community. Since it was established in 2008 by a young Canadian girl, Cassidy Megan, the day has become the internationally recognised day for raising awareness of the condition. It is now more commonly known as Purple Day in recognition of the long standing association between epilepsy and the colour purple.
As part of Epilepsy Actions Purple Day 2018 activities, we organised an event in Parliament to raise epilepsy awareness at the very heart of British democracy. This was not only our first Purple Day event in Parliament. It was also our first event as Secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Epilepsy. The pressure was on!
We decided an informal drop-in style event and photo opportunity was the best way to go. Our focus was on getting as many MPs as possible through the door, engaging with the APPG and the organisations represented. Now I’m not saying that MPs can’t resist a photo opportunity but I was confident that the promise of some positive pictures for social media wouldn’t hurt attendance figures...
By early February, preparations were in full swing with invitations drafted and props designed. We reached out to a wide variety of epilepsy organisations and were pleased with the warm responses received. By the time Purple Day came around seven organisations had confirmed as attending with a further four providing materials ahead of the event.
Monday 26th March crept around and it was time to put my photo theory to the test. Mondays are notoriously quiet days in Westminster and this surprisingly warm day in March was no exception. Despite this, we were joined by three MPs before the event had even (officially) started! We were off to a flying start and the photographer, purple props and knowledge of the organisations represented were soon being put to good use.
There were a couple of quiet moments but this was to be expected with a three hour event and we were really pleased with the steady stream of MPs coming through the door. As an organisation, Epilepsy Action were raising concerns about a recent Public Health England report on premature epilepsy deaths. The report included some stark statistics and a number of Parliamentarians expressed concern that the report hadn’t been widely publicised, giving me plenty to be getting on with on my return to Epilepsy Action HQ.
Purple feather boas and photo opportunities aside, the event was an all-round success. Over 20 MPs came through the doors to celebrate Purple Day with us and to show their support for people with epilepsy and the organisations that work to support them. We had some great feedback from all involved and look forward to our term as Secretariat of the APPG on Epilepsy going from strength to strength.
We will be building on what we’ve learned this year to ensure even more MPs join us next year to show their support for people with epilepsy and get in the Purple Day spirit.
For now, plans are already being put together for our next 2018 event so be sure to watch this space! We’d also like to extend a special thank you to Paula Sherriff MP, the new chair of the APPG on Epilepsy, and her team who were a great help in the run up to the event and on the day.