Getting happy at INTERROGATE!

For the last few months, it’s all been about happiness within the hub team, as we worked hard to programme this year’s INTERROGATE! festival at Dartington, which took place earlier this month.

I’m not sure that ‘festival’ is the right noun for INTERROGATE!, including as it does a punch packing programme of performances, panel discussions, workshops, children’s activities and all manner of exercise type stuff like early morning constitutionals and tai chi. It’s a great project to work on, conceived as a joint initiative by Dartington’s Director of Social Justice, Celia Atherton, and Director of Arts, David Francis.

It’s a real privilege to programme a festival like INTERROGATE! As we pieced together the programme earlier this year we had some incredibly interesting conversations with all sorts of committed, intelligent and inspiring people. People like: Andy Gibson from MindApples , which promotes a 5-a-day message for mental health; Antony Seldon from Wellington College, whose definition of a quality education is just about the most moving thing I’ve heard all year; David Randall , who created The Independent’s Happy List as an alternative to the Sunday Times’ Rich List, and Suzie Hayman , who amongst other things is the agony aunt at Woman magazine. And as we moved to the festival itself, those conversations continued, and we lost count of the number of times we had a “that’s exactly it!” moment. A particular highlight was the Sunday brunch session which featured vast piles of scrambled eggs, mounds of newspaper and gallons of coffee, and was the only time I’ve ever had to ask panellists not to talk with their mouths full! Anyhow, our speakers were a hugely committed and inspirational bunch, and it was a real pleasure to work with them all. You can find out more about them one and all here .

We also got to programme and support some amazing performances and other ‘happenings’. It was great to be able to welcome writers taking part in the Spread the Word and Phrased & Confused , which was led by Stuart Silver and Hugh Nankivell . Over the course of the weekend, they gave artistic responses to some of the panel discussions – on their own and as a group – and took part in the late night Cabaret, where their performance stopped the audience in its track with its intensity and simplicity. Just amazing. We were also really chuffed that we could once again programme the brilliant Natural Causes , who, apart from being truly excellent musicians, are brilliant at bringing out the inner child (optimist?) in everyone. And they are brilliant wordsmiths too.

And through the festival Dartington was also able to work with Phrased & Confused to co-commission three spoken word new commissions, from Emma Bennett , Julian Fox and Jason Singh . Emma’s piece, Slide Show Bird Show, elicited proper wet-your- pants, fall-off- your chair laughter. Julian’s piece, So Here I Am, was really charming pop concert meets book reading hybrid, bringing the holiday slide show bang up to date. And Jason’s piece, Trains, Dads and Spirituality, a beautiful, heart renderingly honest tale of trains, getting lost and finding yourself – played out in word, sound and beats.

By the time my train pulled out of Totnes station on Monday morning I was in just the state I expected to be… very tired, totally fired up.. and feeling very happy!