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We’re all free to be able to pursue happiness

IN advance of its Free Thinking Festival, which is taking place at The Sage Gateshead this weekend, BBC Radio 3 has analysed the happiness of the nation.

IN advance of its Free Thinking Festival, which is taking place at The Sage Gateshead this weekend, BBC Radio 3 has analysed the happiness of the nation.

The theme of the festival, you see, is the pursuit of happiness.

Two thousand people were questioned across the country and the results are published today with not entirely unpredictable results.

Apparently 88% of those surveyed said winning the lottery would make them happier while 68% said a better salary would make them happier at work.

Exactly half of those questioned said more money would be the one thing guaranteed to make them happier overnight.

It is often said, of course, that money can’t buy you happiness. But since you don’t see too many rich people distributing lucre in the Bigg Market, most people would probably be prepared to take that risk for a handful of dollars.

The survey threw up the fact that people in the North East are more likely to indulge in the arts than in any other UK region apart from London and the South East.

But then you wonder where the survey was carried out. Outside The Sage Gateshead or in a supermarket or bus station?

In the North East, we are told, most respondents marked their current state of happiness as seven or eight out of 10.

But at St James’ Park on Sunday you might have found those statistics somewhat skewed – perhaps 10 out of 10 among those wearing black and white stripes (regardless of recent lottery wins or pay rises) and minus 10 among those in red and white (ditto).

Statistics, while sometimes fun, do not always clarify a situation. So we will leave you to work out the implications of the following – that 78% of people think they will be happier in the future while 76% think their children will be happier than they are.

What, we wonder, about that 24% of miseries who doubt that their children will be happier than them?

Enough of this. The pursuit of happiness will probably be explored more thoroughly – and in a statistics-free environment – at The Sage Gateshead where the Free Thinking Festival runs from Friday to Sunday.

Eminent speakers galore will be flocking to the venue to take part in a packed programme of debates and talks, all of them to be broadcast on Radio 3 in the coming days and weeks. The festival begins with children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson delivering the Free Thinking Lecture at 6.30pm on Friday.

Umpteen events later, the festival’s thinker-in-residence, screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, will give the closing lecture on Sunday at 4.30pm.

Potentially, there will be so many people exploring the pursuit of happiness that it could be a very jolly place to be.

Unless you’re of the glass half empty persuasion, which means it could make you feel a little down. We all know people who are just happy being miserable. It’s their democratic right.

On the concourse of the Sage during the weekend will be a specially commissioned Free Thinking art installation by video artist Chuchie Hill.

Produced by James Baxter, of Newcastle-based J6 Films and commissioned by NewcastleGateshead Initiative, it will be presented in the form of 30 flat-screen TV sets.

Each will feature somebody laughing and the footage will be shown at high speed and played backwards.

“If a laugh is captured in high speed and recorded all the way up until the person stops laughing, then played backwards, we shall see the build up of what a person’s face goes through when going to laugh,” says Majorca-born Chuchie.

“This is a visual metaphor of the pursuit of happiness, contemplated with a magnifying glass.”

For full festival details visit www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/freethinking/


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