What we do in the shadows

How can blackouts be imposed on the public this winter without causing insurrection? With some clever rebranding, that's how!

James Tate
4 min readOct 31, 2022

The National Grid recently warned that blackouts might be necessary this winter if the UK’s weather turns “really, really cold” or the country's already fragile energy infrastructure comes under further stress.

For many, the mere mention of power cuts evokes the grim, early Seventies and the three-day working week, events that did not end well for the Prime Minister of the time, Edward Heath. So how can the government prepare consumers for power cuts, and present them in a way that doesn't mean electoral suicide?

We asked Maximilian Shaft, Chief Creative Officer at Gobby Snide & Billings, the award-winning London creative agency, what advice he would give to Ministers as they prepare the country for planned blackouts.

1. Be positive!

“First thing first — the word “blackout” is so NEGATIVE! I mean, what a downer! It’s vital the government gets ahead of the debate by rebranding its planned power cuts as something more appealing. Something to celebrate. Something that inspires FOMO. Let’s say goodbye to ‘Blackouts’, and hello to… ‘The Great British Switch Off!’”

2. Fight them on the sofas

“We Brits love a cup of tea and a common enemy. The Great British Switch Off will deliver both, in spades. Rather than leaving the nation cursing in the dark, let’s help them look to the light, embrace the common good and reap the benefits of evenings spent inside. Just like the Blitz, but without the bombs! (these aren't due until Winter 2023!) (JOKE) We need Joe Public to see the government’s plans not as power cuts, but as opportunities to recharge, spending evenings with family and friends in the, er, warm. Like a British hygge. ‘Huggy’, if you will.”

3. Do a digital detox

“We spend too much time on our devices. Parents everywhere have lost the battle to control their kids’ screen time. The Great British Switch Off will give them the chance to take back control, as millions of devices run out of power each evening with no means of recharging. The Switch Off is an opportunity for families to bond over candlelight, with no device to get in the way, and that’s priceless. Sorry, that’s me… do you mind if I take this?…”

4. A trivial pursuit

“Where was I… Oh yes. What will everyone do without their devices, you ask? They’ll do what every family resorts to during a rainy week in Cornwall, and get out the board games! I understand the boffins are already working on glow-in-the-dark Scrabble letter tiles, and we’ll ensure Relate have beefed up their hotline to handle the inevitable marital disagreements, haha! No, with Granny and kids at least playing a board game or two, Mum and Dad will have the opportunity to progress the interests they developed during lockdown, but which they abandoned when they had to go back to work. I’m thinking macrame, yoga or drinking to excess.”

5. Something for everyone

“It’s important that the Switch Off appeals to different demographics as its success depends on being seen as an event for everyone. The guys here need to give it some brainpower, and we will have to work out the detail, but off the top of my head, I imagine a piece in the Mail on the benefits of raw food; an Express story showing that carrots do improve your eyesight after all – despite what the experts say; and something for the Guardian around ‘dark bathing’ — the natural successor to forest bathing and wild swimming. We’ll get a couple of Love Island contestants to show how Brits can stay warm on Good Morning Britain, and organise the world’s largest silent disco on TikTok for the kids. Bingo!”

“As someone once said, ‘We’re all in it together!’ And, as I was reminded by my trainer, Marybelle Shapes, on Peleton only this morning, it’s amazing what we can achieve when we are all pulling in the same direction!”

“In that vein, I hope these ideas show how we can take a global energy shortage with massive geopolitical ramifications and the potential for political and societal upheaval, and turn it into a giggle with social cut-through! I mean, it’s also an opportunity to come together, share experiences and grow as a country, obviously.”

“If any of these ideas are of interest, let me know, and we will put something together. FYI, I will be spending the winter at my beach house in Ibiza (solar power — yay!), so I’ll be able to direct everything remotely from there if needed.”

Oh, and do let me know if the VIP procurement lane for glowsticks opens up. I might have a name or two for you ;)



James Tate

A pick and mix of words; now online, better packaged and more expensive, like everything post-COVID. The sour cherries are best. The opinions are my own.