These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the National League South in a swanky new ground. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Putting The 'WOW' Back Into Slough

Printed in the Ryman Premier league match v Billericay Town 7th January 2006

So did it make you happy? The biggest social experiment of its kind with six happiness experts arriving in town with a mission to put a smile on people's faces, or more precisely hoping to Make Slough Happy. Having rub Sloughs face in it, thanks to the The Office, no doubt the BBC wanted to make amends.

The ten point happiness manifesto was common sense including stuff like plant something, count your blessings, do a bit of exercise, cut down on TV and do a good deed every day. But did we need a "skilled team of happiness experts" to tell us that? Quite frankly these experts got on my nerves. My main problem with them is that's it all very well if you are well educated and earning a packet, but telling someone living in rubbish housing or trapped in a dead-end job to cheer up could end up with them happily giving you a punch. Take the "expert" standing outside Slough station lecturing people that commuting each day makes them miserable. I'm sure they all needed to be told that!

Other happiness gurus have worked out that after a certain point, being wealthy doesn't make us any happier. Tell that to governments and economists who are obsessed with measuring the health of the nation by how much we produce and buy. So does buying more stuff make us happy?

At the end of the programme, the experts declared that the 50 people who had taken part were far more happy than when the programme first began. Of course if you take 50 people, push them into things that wouldn't normally do, open up more opportunities for them and get them to meet new people chances are they will feel better. I'm not arguing that it's no bad thing, it's just depressing that it took a TV company to get people out of ruts. One of the women who has been suffering for years with mental health problems, chronic depression and anxiety, said that one thing the programme taught her was that "actually the town has the potential for wonderful community spirit."

One of the happiness gurus Dr Richard Stevens, also talked about the communal experience that was the most rewarding. "We started with this very disparate sea of faces, and soon they were all involved and animated in a group." Stevens believes that modern society works against contentment in various ways: that we are very busy to no particular purpose; that we fret about the past and we worry about the future and we forget about the present; that we talk all the time about diet and exercise then we eat badly and slob out; that we would love to be part of a community, but spend half our lives staring at TV screens and playing online poker.

So what have we hear at Slough Town? A cross section of the community who get together for a couple of hours to watch football and get a bit of fresh air into the bargain. And what would make us happy? Our own ground would no doubt send serotonin levels through the roof. A new ground where we could put into practice 'more of that wonderful community spirit.' Of course we could at least be on our way now, if it were not for those idiots in the council who vetoed plans for a community football club in Britwell. But hey presto, now they want the same thing, without the football but with a lot more housing being built over Britwell's green spaces. They claim that these extra housing would pay for leisure facilities, a new Britwell parish hall, a larger community centre in Northborough, and doing up the Wentworth flats. All very commendable, but the fact that they could have had less houses in exchange for Conference style football facilities for the whole area.

It's up to you football loving residents of Slough to let those standing for election in May know what would make Slough happy for you and vote out those who have used the club as a political football.