Around this time each year, the seaside town of Blackpool, England, lights up a 5-mile stretch with more than 500 art pieces with about a million bulbs of all kinds. The world-renown Blackpool Illuminations art festival has attracted tens of thousands of visitors for 138 years. And this time, there’s a new butterfly in town.
Amanda Bennett, the city’s Fairness Commission and Community Engagement Manager, learned about the Butterfly Effect from a friend at Kindness.org, an organization complimentary in that it also encourages acts of kindness to create change.
Amanda was drawn to the Butterfly Effect project for the Fairness Commission,
a partnership of public, private and volunteer-sector organizations that come together to deliver social value projects that build on the social capital and resilience of Blackpool’s citizens. It works on many levels, especially because the department recently embarked on its Acts of Kindness campaign. “We are using it as a highly visual and creative way of engaging people and encouraging them to act on our message,” she said.
“I love butterflies. I love their beauty and grace, but I loved this project more for the message it tries to convey about one tiny flutter at a time,” Amanda said, explaining that many small acts of kindness can potentially reach more people and make more of an impact than a few large sweeping gestures.
Though there are Butterfly Effect installations all over the world, each a little different than the other, there’s none like the Blackpool butterfly, which is purple on a white background, but glows gold at night when fully lit. “Ours is shining brightly in its own enchanted garden, which has other smaller butterflies. When you leave the garden, you’re met with the big butterfly,” Amanda explained.
The Butterfly Effect Through Social Media
To bump engagement and amplify the message, the department is running a competition: people who submit a photo and include what acts of kindness they’ve done can win a prize of shopping center vouchers. But Amanda’s plan for the butterfly goes beyond the Illuminations Festival. The main butterfly will make an appearance at next year’s festival, and smaller versions will become a permanent art installation on a community farm in an underserved area of Blackpool as a memorial to people who have been loved and lost.
Amanda hopes that the butterfly becomes a symbol for systemic change. “I am a massive believer in the power of communities to improve the lives of everyone who lives there. A kind word, small act of kindness, or even just a smile can make such a difference to someone’s happiness. I have loved working on this project, it is a beautiful piece of art but the message behind it is just something I think everyone should embrace,” she said. “I have tried to do one act of kindness every day above and beyond what I’d normally do for this project, and I have noticed it’s made me happier, as well as the people I have engaged with. Blackpool is a fantastic place but lots of people move here from out of the area so it’s really easy for people to feel lonely and isolated here – this project helps people to feel more connected, more cared for and more able to cope with the challenges of life.”
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