Friday the 13th is Asphalt Day

Friday the 13th is a date that instils a sense of dread in many a superstitious person. The idea that it’s a day that only promises bad luck is a trope that the mainstream media and popular culture will gladly play upon whenever it inevitably rolls around. There’s a popular horror film series centred around a masked machete wielding serial killer; there’s even a word for this oddly Western phenomenon, our fear of the number 13 – triskaidekaphobia.

We find ourselves on another Friday the 13th, and we won’t see one again until September 2019. Most of us will breathe a sigh of relief – no Friday the 13th means no random accidents, no spooky, unexplainable occurrences, and no irrational fear that something will go wrong.

Unless you are a member of staff, or one of the vendor team, at German street paper Asphalt. The Hannover based publication, which will host the INSP Summit next year, takes a novel approach to vanquishing the atmosphere of paranoia that surrounds Friday the 13th. Instead of wallowing in its weirdness, they turn the day on its head and use it as a chance to rejoice.

Georg Rinke, Asphalt’s director, explains that no one in their right mind would want to actually celebrate Friday the 13th, so that leaves a gap for Asphalt to fill.

He said: “We decided that we shouldn’t look negatively upon Friday 13th and, above all, try to set a counterpoint to the mind-set of what the day is about.

“Apart from anything, there is far less competition for the public’s attention on a Friday the 13th, because no one wants to host an event on that day.”

Today, Asphalt will host another one of their street paper open days, something they have set up on previous 13ths of the month which have fallen on a Friday, the last being in October of last year.

Asphalt vendors and staff mingle with members of the public at their Friday the 13th open day Asphalt vendors and staff mingle with members of the public at their Friday the 13th open day Asphalt vendors and staff mingle with members of the public at their Friday the 13th open day

The open day – a concept which has been embraced by other street papers in the past, like Québec street paper L’Itinéraire’s version during #VendorWeek2018, though none with the audacity to have one go ahead on the unluckiest day of the year – allows vendors’ customers, readers of Asphalt, public figures and any other curious souls to come along to Asphalt’s base of operations and find out for themselves the work the street paper does empowering Hannover’s homeless people. Attendees also get the opportunity to talk face to face with editors, journalists, vendor coordinators and other staff behind the scenes, as well as meet vendors in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Covrage of the open day in the November issue of Asphalt

Georg added: “We expect guests and friends to come from all over the city, and this gives us a chance to promote the good Asphalt does to the public.

“People who are interested will come and obviously it’s great to sell more papers. But at the very least, it helps us gain new supporters, and they will go away with a positive attitude of the street paper.

One attendee, Renee Steinhoff, a local Green Party member in the city, said of the open day: “It was a very nice event, one that I’m extremely happy to come along to.

“It’s great to speak to the people behind Asphalt and get a proper insight into the work they do on site.

“They carry out an important mission in our city, and I wish them all the best in continuing to work at it.”

“We do all kinds of different events,” says Georg. “Sometimes it’s an open day, and at other times perhaps a charity concert. Overall the effect it has in terms of catching people’s attention is great.

“As we repeat at all of our events: Friday the 13th is Asphalt day.”

When Friday the 13th fell just a few months ago in the middle of April, Asphalt planned exactly what Georg described – a charity concert.

Classical double bassist Jaspar Libuda performed for an audience of Asphalt staff and vendors, and their supporters at the Kreuzkirche, a gothic church situated in the centre of Hannover.

An invitation to Asphalt's classical concert on Friday the 13th of April Jaspar Libuda performing at Asphalt's Friday the 13th event in April at the Kreuzkirche

Georg explains that, no matter what type of event they host, their unconventionally celebratory take on Friday the 13th puts their work in the spotlight.

He said: “The same applies to the concert as to the open day – we collect donations and sell papers that helps with our daily work but, ultimately, it’s about sending people home happy and satisfied.

“For our vendors, it is important that they keep in contact with all sections of the population, from the everyday person walking past them on the street, to famous figures in the public eye, who also receive our invitations to these events.

An Asphalt vendor talks to an open day attendee

“We usually get a superb response, whether through active participation and attendance, or simply by knowing that they exist.”

Despite all the negative connotations around the date, it is comforting to know that a portion of the street paper community is doing its bit to make all the doom and gloom that surrounds Friday the 13th a little less overpowering.