Way back in 1979, there was a big hit in the charts performed by Ian Dury and the Blockheads: “Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3”. The song was inspired by a near-fatal accident involving a lighting roadie who got electrocuted through a microphone stand while leaning over a mixing desk.

Forty years later, you switch on the news and it often feels reasons to be cheerful are hard to find. The on-going shambles of the government’s handling of Brexit, for example, is making many of us feel despair, anger and alienation in equal measure. To top it all, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries reported last week life expectancy has “plummeted”. Compared with 2015, projections for life expectancy are now down by 13 months for men and 14 months for women.

Reasons to be cheerful? You’re having a laugh.

Well, this column aims to redress the balance a little. Because, actually, there are always reasons for optimism as spring revisits our lovely city of York. And lest we forget, spring is already hosting glorious gatherings of daffodils round the City Walls – a siege close to any citizen of York’s heart.

First off, how about the fact that York Literature Festival is launching this week? Book lovers from all over the country and Yorkshire will be descending here to celebrate reading and the written word, as well as take part in creative writing events and drama. The special launch event on Friday features Man Booker prize shortlisted author Daisy Johnson discussing her novel, Everything Under. Other visiting authors include such big names as Joanna Trollope, Kate Mosse, Chris Mullin and Kate Williams. A flick through the brochure reveals that something for everyone is on the menu, whatever your preferred genre or age.

How heartening that York Literature Festival goes from strength to strength each year that passes. Encouraging, too, so many dedicated volunteers give up their time and energy to bring together readers and writers. Let’s face it, if we are to face down the problems that often make the world seem a gloomy, insecure place, we will need all our intelligence as a species. Few things are as intelligent and inspiring as a good book.

Talking of the arts, another treat is on its way. Look out for York Open Studios, a non-profit arts festival aiming to give the public a chance to meet and admire the work of selected local artists and makers. Over two weekends in April, artists will be opening their studios, workshops and homes for people to learn how their amazing work is produced. Photography, glass, sculpture, textiles and painting, all feature in the festival, with more than 100 artists in nearly 100 venues around the city taking part.

There seems to me something wonderfully democratic and generous about York Open Studios. If nothing else, it confirms the arts are not just thriving in our city but embedded in ordinary streets and homes we pass through and barely notice. It is a matter for celebration our fellow citizens are using their time to create wonderful, often challenging work, a great act of sharing.

In fact, there are plenty of festivals to look forward to in York over the next few months. Each celebrates different aspects of human nature and the human spirit. As such, not all are as cerebral as the Literature Festival or York Open Studios. Some are all about plain fun and excitement. York Races will begin with the Dante Festival from May15 – 18, bringing together people from every community in our city along with folk from all over the world. Likewise, the York Walls Festival in August, Food and Drink Festival in September and buzzing, jubilant York LGBT Pride in June.

It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy to get too dragged down by the many problems faced by folk of all ages in austerity Britain. That way you accept the unacceptable as unavoidable. Positive alternatives depend on forward-looking communities. In difficult times, coming together for pleasure, entertainment and self-improvement really does matter. It reminds us we are not alone and that hope can – and does – wear a smiling face. (Unless, of course, you lose your shirt at the Races).