KISS – Kindness Investigation Sensory System – People United’s 10 year anniversary artist commission
Researchers from London and Newington in Ramsgate are proving that Newington is one of the kindest communities in the UK.
News of this discovery has drawn creative researchers into Newington to work with the local community in order to gain a better understanding of how this Kindness is being manifest, how it can be measured and what we can learn from this phenomenon. Their aim is to learn from what’s happening in Newington so that they can help to inspire other communities to become Kindness Hotspots. An investigative team called the Kindness Research Team has been formed to undertake this new and innovative research.
Three creative consultants have been appointed to head up the team in collaboration with local specialists. The team is working with Newington Residents to design a Kindness Investigation Sensory System (KISS) that will allow people to get a sense of the power of this hotspot.
The system, code named KISS, is currently in development and its first prototype will be presented at the hugely popular festival Best Fest on 31 July 2016.
The KISS System will explore the sensory experience of kindness, unpicking the connections (both neural and physical) which it stimulates. Barbara Fredrickson, an American professor in the department of psychology at the University of North Carolina has discovered that moments of connection between strangers, together with a regular focus on kindness can strengthen the vagus nerve, which connects the heart to the brain and the nervous system. The UK’s KISS, once complete, will create a ‘hands on’ experience that makes these micro-moments of connection visible and graspable.
Inspired by the high levels of community connection and support networks recorded in the area, the team created the UK’s largest ever community connections map on Newington Green. Enlisting local schools and families to locate hotspots within Newington itself, uncovering connection highways and highlighting people’s emotional connections to their shared community space, the map offered people the chance to see the place they live in, in a new light and to celebrate its complex, often unseen, support systems.
The word ‘kind’ comes from the old English noun ‘cynd’. “The word meant “nature”, “family”, and “lineage”, “kin”. It indicated what we are, who we are, and that we are linked together in the present and across time” ¹. By supporting people to explore how they experience kindness in their bodies, what it sounds like, looks like and feels like, researchers are hoping to unearth new information about the power and long term impact that a ‘simple act of kindness’ can have on people.
The team is being led by creative professionals with specialist fields:
Thor McIntyre-Burnie: Public Installation artist and Sound Designer specialist in immersive sensory installations in public space. Director of Aswarm www.aswarm.com
Kati Francis: Theatre Maker specialist in working outside traditional venues, with socially isolated communities, Director of BeautifulMess www.beautifulmesstheatre.com
People United and the Newington community have commissioned the above artists to collaboratively work with residents to design and create a sensory interactive installation that communicates the experience of kindness. Chloe Osborne describes it as ‘a metaphor for the community as a giant nervous system.The more we practice kindness as individuals, the plasticity of the human brain allows us to develop kinder attitudes and behaviours.’
¹ Ballat,J & Campling, P. (2011). Intelligent Kindness; Reforming the Culture of Healthcare. RCPsych Publications