“Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?” *

Thursday March 20th is the United Nations International Day of Happiness.

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Happiness is the zeitgeist, in magazine articles and the national press, with artists, scientists, writers, filmmakers and politicians getting on board to explore, discuss and tell us what makes us all happy.

Having read more than one book in the last few years that claims to study happiness across the world, I too am interested in this debate. Working with artists and people I have a vested interest in finding evidence that collaborating to make something creative is good for us.

But I don’t know if happiness can be universal or measurable? Is it something deeply personal to each individual or a set of simple rules to be followed? Can happiness be an art or a science or both?

And what is it that art and artists can contribute to this debate?

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Dancing with the wind, becoming part of a collective performance, creating the folklore of tomorrow in Dunstable.

All this year Dunstablians have been collaborating with Laurence Payot and a team of creative people from in and outside of the town. They have been defining what is important and meaningful for people in Dunstable today, and inventing a new legend for the future. They imagined hundreds of people would gather on the Dunstable Downs to celebrate this beautiful landscape and what brings it to life: the wind.

Commissioned and produced by Bedford Creative Arts.

This new tradition first took place in September 2013. Over a thousand people gathered on the downs in gale force winds, having spent all summer ‘charming the wind’ in the town below. Costumes were worn, people sung and danced, before attaching their windy hopes and memories to a spectacular giant shining kite.

For Bedford Creative Arts’ Autumn 2013 mini commission artist Jan Uprichard subverted our daily routine with a dreamlike film of a sea view ordinarily unobtainable in Bedford.

The film popped up at various locations in Bedford town centre for a week in October; the bus station, British Heart Foundation, the council one stop shop on Horne Lane and waiting area in Borough Hall, where there was also the chance to make and keep your own pocket sized sea view – a flip book version of the film.

At first glance the film seemed like a still image, but over time the peaceful, idyllic scene that it depicted started to go in and out of focus. There was a lighthouse with a light shining off and on whilst she was filming, which was allowed to disrupt the focus of the camera, this added to the dreamlike quality of the image.

Dancing with the wind, becoming part of a collective performance, creating the folklore of tomorrow in Dunstable.

All this year Dunstablians have been collaborating with Laurence a team of creative people from in and outside of the town. They have been defining what is important and meaningful for us in Dunstable today, and inventing a new legend for the future. They imagined hundreds of people would gather on the Dunstable Downs to celebrate this beautiful landscape and what brings it to life: the wind.

This new tradition first took place in September 2013. Over a thousand people gathered on the downs in gale force winds, having spent all summer ‘charming the wind’ in the town below. Costumes were worn, people sung and danced, before attaching their windy hopes and memories to a spectacular giant shining kite.

Commissioned and produced by Bedford Creative Arts.

Photography by Graham Watson and Cat Lane.

Dancing with the wind, becoming part of a collective performance, creating the folklore of tomorrow in Dunstable.

All this year Dunstablians have been collaborating with Laurence a team of creative people from in and outside of the town. They have been defining what is important and meaningful for us in Dunstable today, and inventing a new legend for the future. They imagined hundreds of people would gather on the Dunstable Downs to celebrate this beautiful landscape and what brings it to life: the wind.

This new tradition first took place in September 2013. Over a thousand people gathered on the downs in gale force winds, having spent all summer ‘charming the wind’ in the town below. Costumes were worn, people sung and danced, before attaching their windy hopes and memories to a spectacular giant shining kite.

Commissioned and produced by Bedford Creative Arts.

Photography by Graham Watson and Cat Lane.

For our most recent mini commission artist Jan Uprichard subverted our daily routine with a dreamlike film of a sea view ordinarily unobtainable in Bedford.

The film popped up at various locations in Bedford town centre, the bus station, British Heart Foundation, the council one stop shop on Horne Lane and waiting area in Borough Hall, where there was also the chance to make and keep your own pocket sized sea view - a flip book version of the film.

At first glance the film seemed like a still image, but over time the peaceful, idyllic scene that it depicted started to go in and out of focus. There was a lighthouse with a light shining off and on whilst she was filming, which was allowed to disrupt the focus of the camera, this added to the dreamlike quality of the image.

Photos by Jan Uprichard and Kristian Purcell

Folklore, local identity and the Bay City Rollers

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On Sunday thousands of Dunstable locals gathered on the downs to ‘charm the wind’ as part of our commission with artist Laurence Payot. For nearly a year now Laurence has been working with the population of the town to ‘create the legend of tomorrow’, in response to our call for an artist led project that would work with communities to explore ideas of common ownership, what we have in common, and what makes something ‘ours’.

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Making and performing the vernacular, or… interview with a hot stripey slug.

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A not too rambling ramble on making and the politics of work.

Last month, inspired by an optimistic morning at Milton Keynes Gallery, I drove to Wysing Arts Centre for an exhibition and artist’s talk by one of their current artists in residence, Jonathan Baldock.

I needed to experience this work in the flesh because I had been captivated by the image on the invitation card. Figure in Hand-crocheted Rock costume is a photograph of a one-armed, slug or walrus-like crocheted figure. The person inside the costume is casually seated as if relaxing and, though ungainly, the stuffed and bulbous figure is tastefully striped in blue, black, brown and shades of beige.

I have become very enthusiastic about hand crafts - the so-called gentle arts - and how they are used by people in their everyday lives, for pleasure, for self-realisation and sometimes as a means of non-confrontational activism. I am interested in how artists make connections in their work to these everyday or vernacular objects and how they connect with the people that make them.

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Things beginning with P

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Last Saturday in Bedford I was inspired by people, by places and by pants. The pants bit was completely unexpected.

I was in a room that was passionate about DIY, not shelf building but people committed to just getting on with doing it for themselves and making things happen.  I was at TEDxBedford.

TEDx is a global phenomenon based on the concept of ‘ideas worth sharing’.

Our theme for Saturday was ‘Everyday Radicals’ although we were encouraged by ‘make do and mend’ activist, Jen Gale to think of ourselves as “a little less radical and a bit more everyday.” Why shouldn’t activism and passion be an everyday thing?

This was a day about personal action leading to change. From architect Cany Ash re-thinking and re-making public space through anti-architecture to illustrator David Litchfield’s reclaiming of his own creative time to make a drawing a day, which led to all kinds of changes in his life.

A common theme that came through was the importance of relationships built on respect and trust - whether it was Mark Kelly from Marillion talking about crowd funding their concert tour and CD or Dan Thompson, artist and community activist talking about his work with people and places.

I was taken with Dan’s notion of Place Shaking – and the role that the arts and artists can play in shaking up a place through exploring, getting lost, getting it wrong and through this creating new friendly networks and collaborations.

Everyday Radicals is the perfect theme for Bedford, our hometown is the home of non-conformatism. Bedford has always welcomed and supported new thinking, from John Howard’s prison reforms to Joanna Southcott’s Panacea Society via John Bunyan.

There was plenty here to inspire positive actions big and small. I have pledged to stop buying wasteful bags of salad and to attempt growing my own - thanks to seeds from gardener and forager Jane Perrone. I will also be getting new pants from Becky John.

Finally for your own little bit of TED inspiration, and for the stunning image of a mermaid in a wheelchair, watch artist Sue Austin talk about the relationship between creativity and an engaged citizenry in her work.

Dawn

This weekend the Bedford Creative Arts team and artist Laurence Payot met up with kite display team The Flying Squad on Dunstable Downs, to experiment with wind and costumes for our summer commission, We Are Now

Hundreds of people from Dunstable and the surrounding areas will get involved over the summer, in a series of activities that will culminate in a grand costumed procession on the downs.

Together they will create the ‘legend of tomorrow’.

You can also check out the project’s blog for more inspiration at www.we-are-now.co.uk

Photography by Ben Salmons

In 2012 Bedford Creative Arts worked with composer Johnny Parry, who brought together a big-hearted army of people to develop a cycle of songs, written and performed in collaboration with the public. Hundreds of local people were involved in contributing lyrics, before a new community choir was formed to rehearse and finally perform the songs.

The premiere performance of Concerto Magnificent: An Anthology of All Things was at Bedford Corn Exchange in September 2012. A sold-out audience of 400 experienced grand gestures of love and death expressed through an all-consuming spectacle.

This film documents the making of this spectacular work.

Winner of a Bedford Creative Arts Mini Commission, Liz Wright led a team of locals to yarn bomb Bedford’s Embankment in June 2013.

Photography by Ben Salmons

More about mini commissions: http://www.bedfordcreativearts.org.uk/index.php/commissions/

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Today I installed an exhibition I was asked to put together for Bedford Creative Arts.

Featuring photographs taken by the young people who live, work and socialise in the Midland Road area, it is to act as a showcase of the daily lives of members of their community. 

It was a really fun little task to put together and I think it looks pretty good.  Hopefully the photographers themselves will be pleased with the results!

14th April 2013, Dunstable Downs.

Bedford Creative Arts’ summer commission kicked off in Dunstable with artists Laurence Payot, Ailie Rutherford, Kezia Ruth and Scott Farlow.

Photography by Ben Salmons.

WE ARE NOW - let’s create the legend of tomorrow

13th April 2013, Dunstable Market.

Bedford Creative Arts’ summer commission kicked off in Dunstable with artists Laurence Payot, Michelle Thomas and Scott Farlow.

Photography by Ben Salmons.

WE ARE NOW - let’s create the legend of tomorrow