Shorelines – writing about place and reciting the work of others

Next month sees the launch of Shorelines, a collaborative project, focussed on the dividing line between land and water, hosted on our sister site Walk Listen Create.  We invite new writing to be submitted, and in turn, for these works to be read aloud and recorded. This is our tentative first step towards encouraging writing and composition for sound walks.

For many years we’ve been fascinated by how accomplished writers can draw one into a place or landscape, whether real or imagined, with some well chosen words and phrases.

Back in the 90s when we devised Get Wiltshire Walking, a public awareness campaign to discourage people form over-using their cars,  one of the initiatives we supported was called  “Poetry in Motion“.  We hired actors to join bus passengers and entertain them on their commute in to Salisbury, having them recite poetry about landscape and the joy of observing their natural surroundings.

We also encouraged people to write stories about the places they encountered when they walked their daily errands in the chalk valley villages of South Wiltshire.

15 years ago at a Walk 21 Conference in Copenhagen we met up with a representative from Ramblers UK who was looking for ways in which the Ramblers could recruit younger members, specifically people aged between 20 and 40.  They asked us whether we had any ideas and one proposal we made was called “arm in” –  a singles dating agency for those people who enjoy walking. We piloted it with a walk across Hampstead Heath, from which we found all sorts of reasons why people love to go for walks , and what elements of a walk encouraged people falling in love with a fellow walker!

From this we developed a  program of sensory walkshops where we invited  urban designers, landscape architects, town and transport planning practitioners and highway engineers, to rediscover the areas in which they were working.  This entailed using different senses to experience places and to reveal the elements of those places that drew people to them. An exploration that we hoped would lead to better designed places, places with which people could fall in love.  These we called Romantic Walkshops and we ran them in four different continents! The Romantic Ribbons project followed swiftly on, running for four years,  in which we asked people to write a postcard from a place as though they were that place, enticing people to come and visit.

Concurrently we were exploring ways in which we could develop a project in which people could stumble across poetry as they walked through the city of Vancouver, to contribute to  the annual International Haiku Festival that the city hosts.  We explored ways in which people could text haiku and that these could be geo-located on a map – we called the project Haiku Encounter.  Since 2011 we’ve developed, what we call, Haiku Encounter walkshops in which people get to learn about haiku, compose and recite haiku and then see their work published in a fold-your-own zine.

More recently in the last 18 months we’ve been inviting people to write flash stories inspired by different themes including landmarks – some were selected to be included in a chapbook anthology published by Sampson Low and called  Flash My Landmarks

For Sound Walk September 2019, working with George Fort from the Placecloud app we developed a walkshop in which people could learn to record their own stories and submit them as geo-located “place casts” (sound pieces) on the Placecloud app.

So this year, with the help of technical guru, Babak Fakhamzadeh, and poet Geert Vermeire, we have created Shorelines – we are hoping that people around the world will submit new poetry and prose, so that people will be able to stumble upon their work, when out and about on a walk. As the Thames Festival runs concurrently with Sound Walk September 2020, we are hoping to have an array of written pieces all along its course.  Please do submit a written piece either about or inspired by the liminal places between the land and water, or choose one to read aloud and record. Just click on the Shorelines image.

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