The happiness project

  • Higham, Emma (PI)
  • Gore, Tashi (CoI)
  • Thorpe, Jess (CoI)
  • Thorpe, Jess (CoI)
  • Hullin, Viviane (CoI)
  • Freedman, Ben (CoI)
  • Rutledge, Robb (CoI)
  • Lazzaro, Stephanie (CoI)
  • Lim, Jason (CoI)
  • Rose, Dawn (CoI)
  • Stewart, Lauren (CoI)

Project Details


A collaboration led by the Roundhouse Theatre in London, this Wellcome Trust-funded project brought together neuroscientists, psychologists, social scientists and artists to explore understandings of happiness and wellbeing.

A company of 12 young artists and six academics created and performed a piece of contemporary theatre exploring understandings of happiness and well-being to be shown at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Roundhouse in 2015.

The process of composing the theatrical production combined scientific and social scientific knowledge and experimentation with autobiographical, affective, phenomenological and representational observations of the conditions of happiness and wellbeing.

The company explored happiness and its social, economic, political, psychological and neurological conditions through three areas:

> Music and the mind
> Material and emotional environments
> Economics and consumerism

The theatrical production was a piece of what is known as ‘devised theatre’. Rather than starting from a script, the process of composing the theatrical production took place through a series of workshops. In these workshops, the academics and young artists worked together to devise scenes, dance/movement sequences and dialogue that brought together their academic knowledge and autobiographical, affective, phenomenological and representational observations of the conditions of happiness and well-being.

The performance of the theatrical production presented the findings from the development process to a wider audience, and was intended to stimulate debate and to disseminate academic understandings of well-being to the public. 

The researchers conducted an analysis of the Happiness Project in the form of focus groups with the theatre company members (including the directors) to explore their understandings of happiness.

This analysis considered what happens when various ways of apprehending, feeling, thinking and understanding happiness are articulated in the process of devising, performing and watching the Happiness Project. It attended to how various narrations, expressions, attributions, statements, explanations, performances and fantasies of happiness and its conditions were articulated both by the young artists, academics and directors devising the theatrical production and by audience members at the performances of the theatrical production.

The project was part of the early explorations that led to the Rutledge Labs 'Happiness app' and a range of academic outputs focusing on happiness and wellbeing.
Effective start/end date1/09/1430/11/15


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