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A Map of Some Walking Thoughts

My research into walking is practice based, and the key to being a socially engaged artist is, of course, social engagement. This means that it wasn’t good enough for me to simply talk the talk, I had to walk the walk. I began my master’s course in 2021 with two renditions of my Maps to Nowhere activity, a playful treasure seeking type of walk. One, working with a specific community group from the Angel Centre in Salford, where I saw the value of this activity in terms of mental wellbeing. The activity fulfils much of the criteria of mindfulness, but under the guise of creative treasure hunting which sheds any isolation born from a distrust of new-age, fashionable phrases and practices that can come alongside mindfulness. It was under-cover helpfulness and it was working.

Seeing the power in collective walking experiences, I wanted my next walk to have a very clear intention. I wanted to try and provide a practical solution to the issues surrounding women’s safety while walking. I had found some irritating contradictory advice crop up in my research; and it appeared that many philosophers and great thinkers attribute their ideas to walking, specifically solo walking. Simultaneously statistics reflect both the real and perceived dangers of solo walking felt by women. And so, it led me to the conclusion- if its not safe for women to walk alone, are we not afforded the chance for great philosophical thought?! My attempt to remedy this was ‘Lets Walk Alone Together’, whereby a group of women met up and I led a silent walk, so that as participants they didn’t have to worry about route, safety or feel social pressure to converse. Thus, giving these women the headspace to walk and think, whether that be grand philosophical thought or the weekly shopping list! In the discussion the participants did indeed feel the value of this space, un-worried as they might have usually been, additionally we talked about the value of social walking, even without talking a sense of togetherness was felt through a unique shared experience. I began to think about how walking was so intertwined with community.

Last summer I returned to Nottingham, after a, to be honest, slightly lonely year in Manchester. I was returning to friends, family, and comfortable sense of community, but I was acutely aware of how difficult it could be to find those things as an adult in a new city. With the dark night’s drawing in I wanted to facilitate a series of workshops over autumn and winter that could build community and improve wellbeing. I launched Cosy Craft Club, a series of 6 workshops, where every Thursday evening people could join me for a different seasonal craft and a bowl of homemade soup. As well as this being an incredibly cute and wholesome event series, it was there that I realised the final puzzle piece of my practice- food! I discovered social-eating was so important to building that searched for sense of community. With busy schedules and rising costs of living, more and more people seem to be eating most meals for pure convenience and alone.

Now I had the three components, they assembled in my head and eventually grew into Meanderers. Walking-making talking easier, building curiosity, accessible exercise, and a tool for potentially political issues. Art and making- a space for self-expression, trying new things and learning. It encourages communal working and sharing of resources and skills, and gives a sense of accomplishment. Social eating- providing a sense of community and closeness with others. An affordable, healthy, and inclusive way to socialise and share an experience. I believe these three elements are things we have been doing in our tribes, in one way or another, for millennia. I hope that Meanderers can be a place people can find their own tribe, and to feel good together.

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