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Wish You Were Here

The holidays are coming!

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To reflect upon holidaying in the UK and consider the history behind the Wakes Week.

Preparation and materials


  1. Show Slide 1.

    Ask the students to raise their hand if they are looking forward to the holidays. Point out that this year, holidays are going to look a bit different for many people.

    Covid-19 has meant that travel to foreign countries is problematic this summer. We may be wishing that we could jet off to a faraway location, but as we continue to respond to the various challenges of Covid, the holidays are likely to involve staycations for many of us. Hopefully, we can enjoy some day trips and maybe take a holiday in this country, to a seaside resort like Brighton, Scarborough or Blackpool perhaps.

  2. Show Slide 2.

    In today’s assembly, we’re going to consider what holidays were like in the past, before foreign air travel was possible. In those days, British people would look forward all year to a week’s holiday and enjoy a traditional seaside break in the UK. They would often send postcards home to show family and friends what a great time they were having, using the phrase ‘wish you were here’.

    It wasn’t until the 1950s that air travel for holidays abroad started to become affordable for many people, so before that time, most people holidayed in their home country.

  3. Show Slide 3.

    During the Industrial Revolution, the owners of factories and mills began to shut them for a full week and encouraged employees to use the time as a chance for a holiday. That holiday period was known as the Wakes Week. Due to the growth of the rail network in the 1870s, workers could travel by train to the seaside and enjoy a week’s freedom from the daily grind of hard labour. It was very tempting to send a postcard back home in celebration!

  4. Show Slide 4.

    Over time, the Wakes Week tradition evolved so that different towns had different scheduled weeks for their annual holiday. There was a long-held belief among the working classes in the north of England that bathing in the sea during August and September brought health benefits. Many mill workers and factory employees used their Wakes Weeks to head towards the coast, which helped seaside towns like Blackpool, Southport and Morecambe to become seaside resorts.

    Optional: you may wish to show the news reel from 1937 about the Wakes Week in Blackpool.

  5. Show Slide 5.

    Sending a postcard home formed part of the tradition of this week away. This slide shows a postcard from Blackpool.

  6. Show Slide 6.

    This slide shows a postcard from the Devon resort of Torbay. In a world before mobile phones, social media and WhatsApp messages, postcards were a way to show friends back home what a great time you were having. They were a way of celebrating your time away, and possibly making people back home a tad envious!

Time for reflection

We might think that being grounded as a result of lockdown is disappointing. If it’s a choice between Blackpool or Barbados, we probably know which we’d prefer! However, there is something to be said for staying local and appreciating what we have on our doorstep.

For the tired and overworked mill workers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a UK holiday or even day trips were wonderful treats. Despite the many restrictions they faced in life, the postcards that they sent home (and the promotional video we’ve seen) show that people found ways to make the most of their time away. We know how important periods of rest and relaxation are for our well-being. Indeed, many religious traditions, including Christianity and Judaism, have a day of rest – a day to restore ourselves, relax and connect with others and with God.

Due to the restrictions of lockdown, many of us will have found ourselves wishing that certain friends or family members could be with us. As the restrictions begin to lift and we start to find ways of meeting up with others, we can choose to adopt a mindset of being grateful for what we have. Of course, we may still feel disappointed, frustrated and even sad about the things that we can’t do and the people we can’t see. However, we can also make space to reflect and feel gratitude for the things that we do have and the people we can connect with.

Let’s take a moment to think about the summer ahead of us.

- What are your plans for the break?
Pause to allow time for thought.

- What are your hopes for the break?
Pause to allow time for thought.

- Who do you wish to be with?
Pause to allow time for thought.

- How can you make the most of the plans that you can make?
Pause to allow time for thought.

- What is there to be hopeful about and grateful for when you think about your plans for the summer?
Pause to allow time for thought.

Having had time to reflect on our own summer plans and how we feel about the restrictions, let us bow our heads as we pray.

Dear God,
We face lots of challenges and difficulties.
Covid has meant that we have needed to change our plans and adapt.
This means that our holidays may differ from what we had imagined.
We thank you for the rest and relaxation time that we have,
And for people, spaces and places that help us to unwind after a year of hard work and difficult times. 
Please look after us as we embark upon a summer break.
Help us to appreciate what we have and the people we’ll spend time with.
We pray for good weather and good times ahead.


‘Summer holiday’ by Cliff Richard and the Shadows, available at: (2.01 minutes long)

Publication date: August 2021   (Vol.23 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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