Monday, 29 October 2007

some photographs from the first Salon event

Charles Landry

Paul Chatterton

Phil Wood and Paul Chatterton

Charles Landry and Paul Chatterton

Victoria Minton responds to the debate, watched by Adrian Sinclair

The audience respond to the debate

all photographs are © Katy Hayley

Monday, 22 October 2007

Are You Happy Now?

The Examiner tells us Huddersfield is the happiest town in the North of England. When all’s said and done is achieving happiness what the striving’s all about. Or is happiness just the latest fad?

There was a time when a government might see its goal as making its people more secure, or more wealthy or more equal. However David Halpern, adviser to the Tony Blair, told the BBC that within the next 10 years the government would be measured against how happy it made everybody. Conservative leader David Cameron has got in the act too, saying there is more to life than making money, and arguing that improving people's happiness is a key challenge for politicians.

In ‘The Happiness Formula’ the BBC constructed a 4-part TV series on something most of us never even knew existed – the science of happiness. We watched their campaign to ‘Make Slough Happy’, as if happiness was something that can be measured like GDP or shoe size.

Surely no-one sets out in life with the purpose of not being happy but is the pursuit of happiness what life is all about? Is it really a proper place for scientists and politicians to be trampling over? Isn’t the pursuit of our own happiness our business – not theirs? Can you really demonstrate that changes in economic or social policy will make us more or less happy? Isn’t there also a danger of the private sector make a pseudo-science of happiness as a way of selling us lots of ‘wellness’ remedies and lifestyles that we don’t really need?

Tess Peasgood is advising the Government on how happiness research can be factored into resource allocation. Dolan Cummings is not at all happy with this sort of thing.


Tessa Peasgood is at the Tanaka Business School, Imperial College London and is also connected to the Centre for Well-being in Public Policy at Sheffield University. Her current research explores the relationship between an individual´s happiness and satisfaction with life and their resources, specifically their income and health. She is also exploring questions relating to the role of subjective well-being indicators for informing public policy, and the implications of happiness research for government allocation of resources.

Dolan Cummings is the editorial and research director at the Institute of Ideas in London, and a co-organiser of the annual Battle of Ideas festival. He edits the reviews website Culture Wars, for which he writes about theatre, film and books. He is also the editor of Debating Humanism, a collection of essays exploring different conceptions of humanist politics, and a co-founder of the Manifesto Club.