Isn’t it funny how you can go through life blissfully unaware of certain places until suddenly a name keeps popping up again and again and you move from a state of complete oblivion to gradual awareness of that place’s charms and then to a sudden overwhelming compulsion to visit that particular destination as soon as you can? Just six months ago Todmorden would not have been on my list of 1000 places to see before you die, not that I’m planning to die any time soon. Todmorden is not exactly up there with the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China or other places which are considered by many to be one of the 7 Wonders of the World. So what has fuelled my sudden desire to visit Todmorden?
Todmorden – a Yorkshire Town
The first reason is a personal one – it’s in Yorkshire and my husband who is from Yorkshire tells me Yorkshire’s hard to beat. The other two reasons stem from my interest in positive psychology as Todmorden has many valuable lessons it can teach us about happiness and the importance of trying out happiness experiments.
Todmorden first crossed my radar earlier this year when I watched the Derren Brown programme on Channel 4 about The Secret of Luck. Derren Brown had chosen Todmorden as the town in which he aimed to try out a social experiment. He wanted to see if by planting a rumour about a Lucky Dog statue it was possible to change the lives and fortunes of local residents.
Derren Brown and Professor Richard Wiseman
Derren looked at what makes some people lucky and other people attract only misfortune. The theories which Derren Brown was testing out in his Todmorden happiness experiment were based on the book The Luck Factor by Professor Richard Wiseman. In addition to writing The Luck Factor, Richard Wiseman, who holds a professorship in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, has written many books on a range of topics including luck, self-help, illusion and persuasion such as Quirkology, 59 Seconds, Rip it Up and Did you spot the Guerrilla?
Richard Wiseman also happens to be a professional magician who frequently performs at the Edinburgh Festival . You can watch one of his magic trick videos below:
The colour changing card trick
As luck would have it, I happened to be reading the book The Luck Factor at the time the Channel 4 programme was being aired as it was on the recommended reading list of the 10 week course in Positive Psychology which I had just completed at City University in London. The book teaches us how 4 simple principles can transform your luck and you can read more about these in this article. It is these principles which Derren Brown investigated in his Todmorden experiment and I would urge you to watch his very entertaining and educational programme The Secret of Luck featuring the now famous Luck Dog statue by local artist David Wynne.
The third pressing reason I have for wanting to visit Todmorden is that I recently came across the wonderful community group called Incredible Edible at the Meaning conference in Brighton. Pamela Warhurst CBE, was a really inspiring speaker at this conference and received a standing ovation for her wonderful story of how the action of taking small steps to start a seed swapping project to get the local community growing its own food on unused land just four years ago has now created a community wide organisation. The Incredible Edible initiative, of which Pam is now chair, has become an inspiration for urban regeneration and education projects around the world. Todmorden has created a toolkit you can download if you would like to make your own town incredible. The positive spin offs from this small local intiative have been huge and have not only put Todmorden firmly on the map in this country and abroad for its local food growing intitiatives but have also helped to regenerate many local businesses which are now thriving since this campaign started.
The launch of Incredible Edible in France
Watch Pam Warhurst’s inspiring TED talk and have a rethink about the places you want to see before you die. Everyone needs to create their own personal list but I hope you will agree with me that Todmorden deserves to move up several places in your list. Enjoy Derren Brown’s Channel 4 programme and Pam’s wonderful TED talk and hopefully you will be inspired to try some happiness experiments Todmorden style.
Pamela Warhurst: how we can eat our landscapes
Posted by Shona Lockhart, 16th October 2012