Making Slough Happy BBC2
Optomen TV, one of the top 30 independent production companies in the UK were producing a documentary series called Making Slough Happy for BBC2. An unusual three month social experiment, spanning a variety of disciplines from psychology to economics, aiming to improve the happiness levels of people in the Berkshire town of Slough. Helen Marshall was assigned to work with Andrew Mawson OBE, a well known social entrepreneur, to work with fifty volunteers from Slough and produce a photography project that would form a large montage as part of the final televised event and celebration of the project as a whole. Andrew Mawson felt that involving the community in the making of their own artwork would make them happier and provide a legacy that remained in the town.
Helen Marshall was commissioned to make a community artwork, using photos taken by the locals and everybody became part of a team creating and installing it in the town square at the end of the series. The final photograph was selected because it was one of the participants, Veronica, who had no idea till it she was the chosen face until it was unveiled. This four-part observational documentary follows the team – psychologist Dr Richard Stevens; psychotherapist Brett Kahr; Richard Reeves, whose expertise spans philosophy, public policy and economics; work place specialists Jessica Pryce-Jones and Philippa Chapman; and social entrepreneur Andrew Mawson OBE – as they test out their ideas on real people in a real town.
Happiness is currently on the up, at least in academic circles. Psychologists, sociologists, economists, neuroscientists and public policy experts have been increasingly turning their attention to the study of happiness; What is it? When do we experience it? How can we generate more of it in our lives and communities?
Dr Richard Stevens says: “The great thing about the psychology of happiness is that it is for everyone. Whoever you are, however happy or unhappy you are, you can get something from it that can make a positive difference to your life. But our hope is that this will have a ripple effect – that the volunteers will take their new found skills and attitudes out into the community, and in this way we will begin to change the psychological climate of Slough.”
Making Slough Happy Stories
Heather is a retired nurse and one of the participants who despite never having picked up a camera before, took it up for the first time during the project. During the course of the project she became ‘positively snap happy’. According to psychologists people are at their happiest when they achieve a ‘state of flow and total immersion in an activity they find stimulating’. Much to her surprise Heather achieved this through photography. Heather says “I’m hooked on it”. Many of Heather’s photographs made up a large part of the photomosaic. She created a fascinating series of photographs of many household objects and ordinary everyday things. You can watch Heather in the video below, and see a brief overview of the television program.
‘Making Slough Happy’ was a documentary series produced by Optomen television in 2005 and screened on BBC 2 Prime Time. Helen Marshall was commissioned to work alongside social entrepreneur Andrew Mawson OBE to produce a large 20 square metre community artwork using photographs taken by the locals and made up of a participant’s face, chosen from the final collection of photographs, remaining unknown until the final unveil.
The artwork was a colourful and poignant addition to the Happiness Experiment, it was a pleasure to see it develop and become a legacy to the town, by being displayed in the Queensmere Shopping Centre.Optomen Spokesperson
A remarkable way to bring the local community together using a new and interesting visual art form. Finding their own faces and photographs in the final result was a fantastic addition to the project.BBC Spokesperson