Local people in Gateshead were invited to learn to play a harmonica in order to help make a film short. It has been created as a metaphor for health, happiness and wellbeing in Gateshead town centre as part of the Happy Healthy Gateshead Project. The project aimed to promote the NHS's 5 Steps to Wellbeing and encourage people in and around the town centre to practice new ways to support their health and happiness as research suggests that building 5 ways to wellness into your daily life can add 7½ years to your life!
Gateshead Council's Arts Development Team worked with award winning local film maker Anton Hecht to create the innovative film. Members of the public were asked to play a few notes each, they were then filmed sequentially and edited to produce a version of Rossini's well known tune -- The William Tell Overture. Local sports groups were choreographed running or undertaking some form of activity whilst playing their harmonica and everyone kept their harmonica as a gift.
Breathing is integral to life and is vital for both many artists (breath control is intrinsic to dance, music, actors use vocal projection etc.) and athletes in order to achieve their ultimate performance. Harmonicas depend on the control of breath and are easy to play so people can be taught relatively quickly.
The arts development approach is a subtle and elegant way of drawing people from diverse backgrounds, ages and experience into the engagement of a process which in turn can relay an important and lasting message. This developmental approach depends on building levels of trust with participants, enabling those involved to try new things and achieve more than they imagined possible at the outset, whilst leaving a positive and memorable imprint on the consciousness of the individual; ergo, they are more likely to continue or expand their experience and to advocate it to others.
The project will also signpost people to the local community website www.ourgateshead.org, which re-launched this May with a new online directory of health and wellbeing services in Gateshead.
Film participants included students from Gateshead Academy of Sport, Gateshead Indoor Bowls Team, Anytime Fitness Gym staff and members, Gateshead Academy of Music and Gateshead College Music students, Gateshead Angels Netball Team and Gateshead Stadium staff, Low Fell Running Club, Caedmon Primary School and members of the public in the town centre. Everyone involved had never played a harmonica before.
Concept / Direction Anton Hecht, musical arrangement and direction Andy Jackson, camerawork Meerkat Films with Jason Berg and sound by Rob Meek. The musicians are Tim Dalling and Nigel Kirkpatrick.
Take the 5 Steps to Wellbeing and Happiness:
Connect. Connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.
Be active. Take a walk, go cycling or dance. Find the activity that you enjoy, and make it a part of your life.
Keep learning. Learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. Start learning to play a musical instrument or figure out how to fix your bike?
Give to others. Even the smallest act can count, whether it's a smile, a thank you or a kind word.
Take notice. Be mindful of your feelings and thoughts, your body and the people and wider world around you.