Walking Interconnections is a collaborative research project that I have been engaged in over the past year, working with a team of researchers from the Universities of Bristol and the West of England – Dr. Sue Porter, Dr. Shawn Sobers and Dr. Suze Adams. Importantly, the project also involved 19 co-researchers drawn from across the disabled and environmental activist communities, and was supported by The West of England Centre for Inclusive Living.
The project responded to the fact that disabled people’s voices have been largely absent from the sustainability debate, and indeed from environmental groups. We sought to use creative research methods to develop dialogues between these two traditionally separated communities. Through these dialogues we aimed to understand more about different forms of resilience in support of the transition to a sustainable society.
Key to the project was the use of walking – an everyday activity – as a means to gather research about the lived experiences of our researchers. How do they plan, navigate space, engage with their environments, negotiate challenges, take account of the atmosphere and weather? We invited our co-researchers to take each other on a walk of their choice. The co-researchers drew maps of their intended routes, photographed their experiences whilst walking and audio recorded their conversations.
One of my main contributions to the project was to transcribe over 40 hours of recorded conversations into a 30 minute audio play – using only words spoken by our co-researchers in the final script. The intention of this play, Going for a Walk, is to allow listeners to learn about the everyday wisdoms of our co-researchers, as if walking in their shoes. What I hope the play represents is the resilience, creativity, determination, planning, improvisation and calculated risk-taking of our participants – as well as the fact that we are all interdependent.
Working with co-researchers allowed us to:
- gain a better understanding of how the lived experience and daily wisdom of disabled people can contribute to a sustainable society;
- develop a platform to build and sustain a shared dialogue between disability and sustainability practitioners;
- engage with planning agencies and policy makers with the outputs from the research, to inform planning and policy agendas;
Walking Interconnections was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Further information about the project can be found at http://walkinginterconnections.com/
The play, Going for a Walk, can be downloaded from http://walkinginterconnections.com/audio-play-going-for-a-walk/
Text by Prof Deirdre Heddon – Professor of Contemporary Performance (Theatre, Film and Television Studies), Dean of the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts & Humanities (Arts Administration)
View Deirdre’s video on Walking Interconnections