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The Happiness in Cities Festival 2019 Report





On October 22-26, 2019 the University of Birmingham hosted the first Happiness in Cities Festival at Hornton Grange, Edgbaston Park Hotel:



Using an example of the city of Birmingham, the Happiness in Cities Festival tried to understand how different communities across Birmingham contribute to the city's development and how this diversity can help us build happier cities. The Festival featured many different events as well as the Art of Happiness in Cities Exhibition - a custom photo exhibition produced by Alexander Kharlamov.



Our charitable mission: All festival events were free, but we collected donations for the local charity PHAB Camps via exhibition photo sales, organisational and personal contributions. Personal contributions are still accepted:


MAKE A DONATION TO PHAB Camps

The Art of Happiness in Cities Photo Exhibition


Hosted at the University of Birmingham, the "Happiness in Cities" Festival included “The Art of Happiness in Cities” exhibition which showed 40 pieces of works by the award-winning artist Alexander Kharlamov from Tuesday 22nd October to Saturday 26th October.



The Art of Happiness in Cities Exhibition by Alexander Kharlamov

The exhibition, which took place at Horton Grange, University of Birmingham represented a custom celebration of inclusion, diversity and vibrance of the City of Birmingham using film photography and silver gelatine printing. The exhibition  featured many different communities from all parts of the City captured in both portrait photography and landscapes.


Born in Russia and raised in Portugal, Alexander Kharlamov has dedicated most of his life to develop his artistic vision, receiving his formal education in fine art painting and classical music in a conservatory, yet, photography remains his favourite medium. His portraiture has been published in books and magazines. His fine art work received many distinctions and featured in both individual and collective exhibitions over the last years.


Commenting on the project, Alexander Kharlamov said: “I believe that studying inclusion and diversity through art helps us rediscover cities as we can better understand how different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds come together to form the multidimensional tapestry, which contributes to our everyday life”.


The exhibition was open to the Festival participants throughout the week and to the public from 10 am to 5 pm on October 26th. The exhibition was free, but accepted voluntary donations which will go to Birmingham PHAB Camps – a Birmingham charity which runs holiday programmes with the special purpose of integrating children of all abilities, backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities.


Ganna Pogrebna, one of the organisers of the Festival said: “According to the United Nations, 68% of the world population will live in urban areas by 2050. Yet, modern cities still fail to maximize people's potential. Using an example of the city of Birmingham, the Happiness in Cities project aims to understand how different communities across Birmingham contribute to the city's development and how this diversity can help us build happier cities. We are very excited to host the Happiness in Cities and the exhibition! We are very grateful to the University of Birmingham, Economic and Social Research Council and the Alan Turing Institute fir financial support.”


Please, see examples of Alexander Kharlamov's Photography produced for the Exhibition below:






The Happiness in Cities Festival

DAY 1: The Future of Our City: Where Next for Leadership Inclusivity?


October 22, 2019

Hornton Grange, Edgbaston Park Hotel


The University of Birmingham's WE LEAD in collaboration with local theatre innovators, Stan’s Cafe and author Jon Bloomfield organised a day of unique experiences of research through visual and performance arts. This event created new contexts for collaborations between artists, entrepreneurial leaders, authors and academics by showcasing creative interpretations and interventions relating to research of Birmingham and the role of entrepreneurial leadership and inclusivity in the making of modern Birmingham. Stan’s Cafe performed a short, sketchy drama, written especially for this event which found three entrepreneurs facing the challenges of running their own very peculiar businesses as they chase their dream. Professor Kiran Trehan and WE LEAD centre at Birmingham Business School led discussions throughout the day.






The Happiness in Cities Festival

DAY 2: Building the Technology Ecosystem to Innovate Financial and Professional Services in the West Midlands


October 23, 2019

Hornton Grange, Edgbaston Park Hotel


Day 2 featured the FinTech event focusing on services in the City of Birmingham and the West Midlands region. There is an opportunity for the region to harness disruptive technologies to ensure we respond to the pace of change, build our global resilience and ensure we are not left behind. To do so we will need to identify how we make our mark in this space. Join our panel discussion that will explore how we adopt new technologies to innovate financial and professional services in the West Midlands by taking an honest look at where our capabilities lie and how we turn these to our advantage. The panel consisting of Julian Wells (Director at the Whitecap Consulting and FinTech Specialist), Karolina Kuszowska (Business Development Executive at the West Midlands Growth Company), Suzi Evans (Director at Deloitte), and Ian Tait (CIO at the Delta Financial Systems) discussed the future of FinTech at Birmingham. This event was joint hosted by City REDIBPS and GBSLEP  and the panel was chaired by Professor Anne Greene. Lively discussions were followed by the dinner.




The Happiness in Cities Festival

DAY 3: Urban Analytics Workshop


October 24, 2019

Hornton Grange, Edgbaston Park Hotel


On Day 3 the Festival hosted the Urban Analytics Workshop including talks by


Emmanouil Tranos (University of Bristol )

Federico Botta (Warwick Business School )

Nataliya Tkachenko (University of Warwick )

Eiman Kanjo (Nottingham Trent University ) Presentation slides

Eime Tobari (Aecom ) Presentation slides

Spyros Angelopoulos (Tilburg University) Presentation slides

Okan Yilmaz (Swansea University )

Oleksandr Talavera (University of Birmingham )

Claudio Piga (Huddersfield University)


The workshop participants discussed many aspects of modern cities including data collection, sensing, IoT, congregation and congestion problems, sustainable future, housing, and many other things. The event was co-organised by the University of Birmingham, the Alan Turing Institute and the Economic and Social Research Council.





The Happiness in Cities Festival

DAY 4: Sustainable Future in the City: Student Competition 2019


October 25, 2019

Hornton Grange, Edgbaston Park Hotel


Day 4 of the Happiness in Cities Festival featured the Sustainable Future in the City Competition 2019! Students were invited to come up with ideas about how to improve the responsible business eco-efficiency in the city of Birmingham. One of the main current challenges is that local businesses need to create more value with less environmental impact: seizing opportunities to innovate and to enhance competitiveness through better use of physical, human, and financial resources, while meeting growing customer demand for more environmentally and socially acceptable goods and services. Any registered student at the University of Birmingham or a group of up to 3 students could apply to take part in the competition. 113 applications were received and 4 were shortlisted to pitch their idea in front of the Competition Committee: Jon Roberts (ARLI - Business Engagement Manager at University of Birmingham), Anna Isakova (Business Development Manager - Technology Transfer at the University of Birmingham), Spyros Angelopoulos (Assistant Professor of Information Management at Tilburg University), Allan Beltran (Lecturer in Environmental Economics at the University of Birmingham) and Zhihua Li (Lecturer in Behavioural Economics at the University of Birmingham). Shortlisted competitors: Shanshan Mao, Zixiang Ma, Aidan Dyde, Matthias Loira, Bowen Yan, Jinman Zhang and Zixin Li presented their ideas on October 25th, 2019. These ideas included drones on trains to decrease delivery waste (Aidan Dyde), SME platform for sustainability & waste reduction (Mathias Loira), sustainable smart storage solution (Bowen Yan, Jinman Zhang, Zixin Li).


And the winners of the SustainableFuture in the City Competition 2019 were .... Shanshan Mao & Zixiang Ma with their solution to the paper waste problem caused by ticket printing. The winning team received a £1000 prize and all participants (including those who did not win) will have an opportunity to implement their projects with the help of the University of Birmingham. Congratulations to the winners and many thanks to our sponsors: Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham Department of Economics, The Alan Turing Institute & ESRC: Economic and Social Research Council!



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