From individual well-being to collective well-being, and the Bring the Happy project. Ben is an artist and interaction designer.
He asks us to take a moment to think about a happy moment: what is was, where it happened, and how happy you were on a scale of 1-10. For several weeks, Bring the Happy ran a pop-up shop in Exeter. People came in with their own moments of happiness, which were plotted on big maps using perspex rods of varying height.
There’s a bit of a lie emerging from the project: that happiness is more complicated that it seems. It’s a hook for conversations about the place where people live, which unpeel layers of meaning. The project started four years ago, when the recession was dragging town centres down and Britain was broken. Bring the Happy wanted to turn the vacant shops into community spaces. The stories all told us something unique about the way that we live.
There are a lot of TED talks about happiness. Ben’s thinks that these try to tie people down into a model of happiness, which will lead society to be more productive and richer, and hence more happiness. To him, that sells happiness short.
The Bring the Happy project started in Leeds. As in many cities, slums were cleared in the 1930s and people moved into new flats or vertical villages, which became slums themselves, were destroyed, and communities were blasted across the city. But many of the happy memories were centred on those flats. So today, where are we building a space for emotion and memory in the towns and buildings we build? How do we accommodate and celebrate those? Too seldom do we have the freedom to graffiti our stories on our cities. They are our streets.
So take your happy memory and share it with the person next to you (after Ben has gone off stage!). And take that memory and use it as a lens for living your life in your place.