"People wear their heart on their sleeve in a different way up North and I think it’s really nice": Hope & Social and Invisible Flock on Bring The Happy
Hope & Social is a name you might not have heard around the North East music scene, but for the past six weeks, the Yorkshire six-piece have been involved in a project mapping the happiness of Wearside and South Tyneside to create a unique, uplifting performance that’s known as “a cross between a wedding and a wake”.
They have travelled around the UK discovering how the public explain happiness, visiting Sunderland as their eleventh location. With a mixture of songs, video projections and plenty of opportunities for participation, the two-hour long show had lots of happy moments to share.
Keyboardist Ed Waring, 39, said: “It’s been a really good batch. I think we got 1000 memories in Sunderland and if you think we’ve done it about ten times now and we’re only up to about five and a half thousand. There’s so many people wanting to talk and give something here.
“The new section is all positive memories, they’ve stolen a phrase and kind of used it as a chorus, I love this town.”
Wearside is Bring The Happy’s second successful visit to the North East after agreeing that their Stockton show in November 2013 was full of “amazing memories” with much more breadth compared to some, possibly more affluent areas.
After starting the project in Leeds and going on to visit a variety of regions from Edinburgh to Exeter, and even overseas to Tbilisi in Georgia, Russia, it becomes apparent that they all seem to have a soft spot for the cities in Northern England.
“For me, people wear their heart on their sleeve in a different way up north and I think it’s really nice”, explained Invisible Flock member, Richard Warburton, 40.
“I really love it. People will come in and story-tell. Stockton was amazing, it’s just been great. When it works well is when people go I haven’t really thought about those memories, and stuff like that, it brings stuff up.”
Ed added: “We’ve found that stories can be more interesting from poorer places, the way that people answer that question is more interesting.”
Fellow band member, Rich Huxley also said: “I think it’s a bit about working class. There’s something to do with civic pride in a place.”
Despite this view, and their clear personal pride in being from Yorkshire, the magic of Bring The Happy is that the memories can be from working class towns and still resonate with the more affluent audiences and vice versa. There’s opportunity for anyone and everyone to have a personal connection to what is being said, whether it’s the joy of a first kiss or the heartbreak of saying goodbye to a loved one for the final time.
The original idea for the show began in 2010 after the recession had hit, the term broken Britain was being thrown about and Invisible Flock decided it was time for some positive dialogue within the community. But how did Hope & Social initially get on board and decide to travel alongside them for the following four years?
“It was kind of fated, wasn’t it?”, asked Rich.
“Invisible flock were looking for people to work with on it and the first person they asked couldn’t do it. So he provided someone’s number to get in contact with and they’d provided Gary’s [Hope & Social’s drummer] but they’d already been thinking about Simon [lead singer] instead, so they got us anyway.”
Thousands of memories later and they’re still working alongside Invisible Flock creating their interactive and dynamic love letter to society.
Gary seems to summarise the process well: “I think if we can raise people’s spirits, that’s a good thing.”
That is, after all, the purpose of the performance, it’s not comparing the beauty or decay of different cities but simply sharing stories of happiness.
So after the success of their three shows in Sunderland and countless hours spent across Wearside, do the boys in their infamous blue blazers have any plans to return to the region in the near future?
Following a brief pause, Ed mentioned: “I think we’re doing a thing in Durham in the summer. We’re doing a week of gigs as part of Durham Brass Festival, we’re doing that in collaboration with a band called the New York Brass Band, who are like crazy New Orleans style jazz band.”