The art of walking … how we took lockdown in our stride

Covid Walking Project.
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We all did it. Some more than others. And some more creatively than most.

A University of Glasgow led project is exploring people’s experience of walking during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And already academics are finding examples of creativity at work across the United Kingdom.

Colourful stone trails created for and by children; Fairy Trails which have transformed local woods into sites of enchantment; decorated and illuminated windows which have enlivened neighbourhoods; and activities such as I Spy or I Can See It Bingo intended to keep both minds and feet engaged and curious.

Professor Deirdre Heddon, from the University of Glasgow, is leading the walking project in collaboration with academics from University College Cork, University of Liverpool and the University of East London. 

They are asking artists and people across the UK to take part in a survey to help capture the experiences of walking and creativity over the last year.

‘Walking Publics/Walking Arts: walking, wellbeing and community during COVID-19’  is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the UK Research and Innovation rapid response to COVID-19.

Professor Heddon said: “We know that walking is good for people in all sorts of ways. It helps with physical and mental health.

“Existing surveys tell us that more people have been walking more during Covid-19, but we don’t yet know enough about their actual experiences of walking: who is walking, where are they walking, why are they walking, even how they are walking and how they feel about walking?

“Alongside that, why might people not be walking, or what are the different challenges people face in participating in walking?”

New research project explores experiences of walking and creativity during COVID-19. Pictured Millie Gilmartin, four, in the park with painted pebbles as Rafa the dog is being walked by mum Emma. Photograph: Martin Shields

The research project is collaborating with a range of walking organisations to explore the potential of creative walking (Ramblers Scotland, Paths for All, Living Streets, Sheffield Environmental Movement) along with cultural organisations like Arts Canteen, Glasgow Life, Open Clasp Theatre Company, and Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA).

‘Existing surveys tell us that more people have been walking more during Covid-19, but we don’t yet know enough about their actual experiences of walking: who is walking, where are they walking, why are they walking, even how they are walking and how they feel about walking?

Professor Deirdre Heddon

Professor Heddon said: “A year is a long time to be walking the same paths around the local park so we are also keen to know if creative activities that can be done while walking, or walks that are themselves creative, have helped sustain people’s motivation, increased their enjoyment in walking, or offered ways for people who are physically distanced to connect creatively and imaginatively.”


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