Meeting half way
Jess Allen is an aerial dancer, walking artist and researcher in landscape and rural economies, with one PhD ‘in the bag’ and another well on its way. Like all the interviews, undertaken for Talking Walking, their producer, Andrew Stuck tries to meet his interviewee ‘half way’ – unbeknownst to him when he set up the interview with Jess Allen, that ‘half way’ was just where he had to get to.
Jess Allen was contributing to the annual Big Green Gathering outside Chepstow, so to get there from her home in Herefordshire, unlike most of us, she chose to walk all the way – more than 8 hours of continuous walking..
Andrew Stuck’s journey meant travelling by train for just shy of four hours and then walking for a little over three and half hours. They were meant to meet on the Offa’s Dyke Path, but a miscalculation meant that the rendez vous was actually on the Gloucestershire Way at Bough Spring on a hot and thundery afternoon in early August 2013.
Both experienced a change in tension when they realised that they were on parallel paths, and had in fact passed each other, so that instead of encountering each other face to face they had to re-arrange to meet at a certain point south of where they both were. Such nuances are the ‘bread and butter’ of Jess’ walking artist practice as she uses walking to facilitate talking and listening; creating unexpected encounters in unusual places. Her curiosity lies in how the aesthetics of a walk and intention of the walker can open a space of embodied dialogue around politics and sustainability. Through this she is developing what she calls ‘tracktivism’: walking and moving in rural landscapes as an activist arts practice.
In 2012, from her then home in South Herefordshire in the heart of the rural agricultural economy, Jess developed a month-long walking performance “All in a Day’s Walk”, first performed in the winter of 2012 and repeated in summer 2013.
During the summer (2014) Jess will be performing as part of EveryBODY Dance at festivals in London and the south of England.
Talking Walking is Britain’s leading walking podcast website, with more than 50 recorded interviews since 2008 – each interview is recorded and produced by Andrew Stuck from Rethinking Cities Ltd. in London.
This article first appeared on the Rethinking Cities website