January 24th is Global Belly Laugh Day. Who knew that? The answer is: yoga teachers did. Yoga practitioners know the value of laughter so well that, in 2005, Elaine Helle decided to found a day marking laughter’s importance –- to our health, to our relationships, to our ability to forgive and accept and let go, and simply to survive the massive and the minuscule challenges that are Life.
So what better occasion on which to launch my new films? That’s right folks! This blog post serves as my official announcement that, as of 24 January 2013, I will have new baby films available for purchase. YIPPEE! Like my other materials, the aim of the films is simple: to help us see for ourselves just how connected babies are.
This time we have 10 short films, each lasting 15 minutes or less. I hope this length makes them useful for professionals working with groups, as well as for lecturers needing illustrative course materials, and also for busy parents who have to snatch time in brief bursts. The films feature babies aged between 2 weeks and 14 months, including those
seen in these still images. They are all engaged in ordinary activities with family members, such as singing, snacking, playing, walking, crawling, crying, yet always connecting. From the 24th of January, they will be available on my website for purchase on DVD or download.
When my team and I said to ourselves, ‘How shall we celebrate these new films?’, we thought: what better way could there be than reminding us all of the power of laughter? Thus was born the occasion of ‘Silly Moments’. We have partnered with the fabulous baby theatre organisation, Starcatchers, who have created a new series of theatrical productions especially for the day.
The thing that’s great about baby theatre (otherwise known as ‘early years arts experiences’) is that it forces you to move out of your head and back into the Present Moment. That shift is inevitably harder for adults to achieve than it is for kids. Belly laughing is the perfect tool for that. You can’t be anywhere but in the Present Moment if you are laughing. So the early years artists who created Silly Moments didn’t do so just for children. The productions were designed with the needs of grown ups firmly in mind too.
Once Rhona Matheson, Director of Starcatchers, and I put this vision into action, it rolled with its own energy. We now have venues in five towns across Scotland taking part: Dundee, Edinburgh, Glenrothes, Barrhead, and Hamilton. We are grateful to the managers of these venues, which range from shopping centres to health complexes, for catching the Laughter Spirit. They include:
- Dundee’s Wellgate Centre
- Glenrothes’ Kingdom Centre
- Edinburgh’s St James Centre
- Hamilton’s Regent Centre
- Barrhead’s Sports Centre and the Health & Care Centre
I promise you that, in the grey days of a Scottish January, everyone passing through these premises will benefit from a laugh! Between 11am and 2pm, we’ll be staging spontaneous performances of Silly Moments in those venues, so if you live nearby any of them, as detailed in our event poster, do come along and help us generate some laughs, whilst seeing previews of the new films. If you are a nursery staff member or a childminder, then bring along all the kids! And if you don’t live nearby, no worries –- you can spread cheer wherever you are, on Belly Laugh Day.
In the evening, we’ll be marking the national importance of laughter at the Scottish Parliament, with the help of the charity Children in Scotland. Some of the polar bears (yes, polar bears!) leading Edinburgh’s Silly Moments will be welcoming members of Children in Scotland to their Annual Reception. Laughter is indeed the business of government.
Here, then, is the message underlying our strapline of ‘Share in the Silliness’: it is in sharing that we humans have the best possibility of maintaining our mental, emotional, and physical health. It is in sharing laughter that we most rapidly heal the ruptures in our connections with others. Sharing laughter breaks down boundaries, unravels division, sparks forgiveness, and strengthens trust. We would be wise to place laughter at the core of our national agendas, our institutional policies, and our family dinnertime chatter.
We often resist doing that because it sounds too…well…silly. “Seeing laughter as central to what WE do? That doesn’t sound very serious. People might not take us seriously if we emphasise laughter.” That’s my own personal message underlying this Launch: we need to take laughter seriously. We need to take seriously the fact that, as some of the handouts we will be distributing on the day state: laughter reduces the chance of heart attack, it is being used to treat multiple sclerosis, it lifts depression, it facilitates restorative justice, and babies come into the world able to share in it. Parents are better placed to survive the craziness of parenting when they can laugh AT themselves and WITH their children. It is at our peril that, as a society, we fail to take laughter seriously.
Let me end on two notes. First, let me thank the members of my team who have helped me to create these new films, and my very special thanks go to the families whose willing participation made them possible at all. I am also grateful to the many partners and volunteers who have stepped forward to help us create enough Silly Moments that they now stretch across the whole country! (If you need a taster for the tone of the day, we’ve got some great images up on Facebook.)
Secondly, let me close with a quote on laughter, which will be amongst those we will feature on the day. It is by the too-little known feminist Mexican poet, Rosario Castellanos:
” We have to laugh. Because laughter, we already know, is the first evidence of freedom.”