The eternal optomist – a weekend at Interrogate!

One of the late night – post event, wine fuelled – Interrogate (#intfest) discussions focused on a rather fanciful idea. Lets imagine –our game went- that a senior government minister was attending the festival. And more pertinently what would we say to him/her over a White Hart breakfast…

…not surprisingly the discussion started with a fierce and passionate rant. Strong language was used. The talk was of slashing the third sector, of a government that had no idea of the real damage to society that was being done. Some of the discussion at this point was very personal – real examples, passionately drawn of the impact the cuts have made. Some seriously unhappy people!

Hardly surprising really given that the #intfest crowd seemed to be a very engaged and knowledgeable lot. No embarrassing pauses here when session chairs opened the debate out for questions – the problem was more shutting the floor up!

Throughout the weekend lots of questions were asked (like is happiness actually a useful word? to what extent should the happiness of the individual be subjected to the happiness of a wider group however small? can we legislate for happiness? And what is it about growth that makes us happy?)– but were there answers for our fanciful cabinet member to take back to the heart of government?

Well one was suggested by resident comedian Paddy Cullivan (@paddycullivan) – what we need is a famine he declaimed from the piano during one session. (Yes I did write ‘from the piano’ -music, poetry and performance are an everyday part of the mix on an Interrogate panel)…and no we didn’t take him seriously!

But were there others? Well like all good conferences there were many more questions than answers – but for what its’ worth here is what I’ll be taking away from the weekend.

-I was envigorated by this stat – 50% of happiness is genetic, 10% is circumstance and 40% is down to what we do. In other words I control 40% of my happiness. Perhaps it seems obvious but I suspect its one of those things which I for one would quite easily ignore. Hopefully now I’ll pay more attention to things like @mindapples ‘5 a day’ (see my previous blog) and Action for Happiness’s Great Dreams.

– Daniel Bye’s (@danielbye) The Price of Everything re enforced a theme that seemed to run through the event – about what we value. A random act of kindness results in Dan being told ‘made you look a bit weird mate’ and ‘are you a commie?’. It’s a strange society which fails to appreciate kindness – and surely one we have to change….especially when as a society we are hard wired to care. Beautifully The Price of Everything captured the ripple effect of what can happen when one kindness is passed on…

– And linked to that I don’t think I’ve ever thought as much about GDP as I did this weekend. I’d kind of ignored it (thought it irrelevant to me) – though in my work life I’d been very familiar with the balanced scorecard principle (so for an arts organisation financial performance is just one factor in our success – the quality of our work, the people we reach, the difference we make are all equally if not more important). So the idea that government and policy makers need to equally value well being and sustainability as well as economic indicators had real resonance. I’ve ordered Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without growth for a bit of light reading!!!! (but not from Amazon – from my local independent bookshop!)

Above all though the weekend was a reminder of what a potent mix high level debate, reflective arts events and being in an environment like Dartington can be! Inspiration leads to change – and whilst I might not be clear in my own head what I might have said to our fictional minister (sic)– maybe someone at the event was. My own moment of inspiration was grasping this simple idea:-

– if I take care of my mind (the 5 a day thing and more) I can be happier, happiness if contagious so I’ll affect others happiness too. My kindness’ to others is an investment in my own happiness. Is it a utopian dream that if we all work on our own happiness we’ll build a better and more positive society.

(theres a diagram in there somewhere – a virtual circle – but my computer can’t cope with that!)

I remain – as ever – the eternal optimist! Interrogate 2013 has re-enforced that optimism!

(for more views and opinions check out the excellent festival blog with contributions from Peoples United, Action for Happiness’ Mark Williams, Joe Hoare and many others

Also worth having a look at this blog (366 random acts of kindness) or this (people united)

If anyone has a reading list (or suggestions) emerging from the festival I’d be very grateful!)

Happiness – the Interrogate Festival at Dartington – ran from 13 October-14 October 2013. – Programmed by Dartington in association with and action for happiness. The festival includes 3 premieres from Jason Singh, Emma Bennett and Julian Fox as part of a new @phrandconfused programme


One thought on “The eternal optomist – a weekend at Interrogate!

  1. Pingback: A curious mix of Grange Hill and Hamlet #LDR2012 « Matthew Linley’s Blog

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