******ANNOUNCEMENT - WE MADE IT!!!!******
Please do read on, especially if you haven't been here before, but before you do, I'd like you to know that the campaign has achieved its original goal. Wahoo!! Thank you everyone who has been a part of that - I couldn't be happier.
If you believe in the idea and still want to support the project, your pledge will very happily go towards the making of a film about the project. As an artist and a filmmaker, I'm really excited about this extension to the project, as it's something that I was really sorry not to be able to commit to within the original proposal below. So, if you want to see it happen, it can!
Now, read on...
How would it feel to be an active participant in building a shared future?
How could your own ideas be part of a wider narrative of change?
To answer these questions, I'm taking to the streets, roads and ancient paths of this land, on foot, to meet people with ideas for positive change in our society. I need you to be part of the project by contributing your ideas, footsteps, and, of course, by backing me to do it.
The Old Way to Canterbury was a medieval route for European pilgrims arriving in Southampton, winding 220 miles along the South Coast of England, recently rediscovered by the British Pilgrimage Trust. As soon as I possibly can, I'm going to walk the route, meeting people who are making a difference in their communities and in the world. I want to meet people with ideas for how things could be better, from practically-focused improvements to wild, utopian visions. On arrival in Canterbury, I will invite everyone I have met en route to share a meal with me, consider the next stage of the project and take part in the final day of pilgrimage, walking seven miles to Whitstable the following day.
A pilgrimage is a journey taken, often on foot, as a means of looking inwards to the soul. It is often associated with overcoming physical and spiritual obstacles in order to reach a destination. I am less interested in my own soul than I am in the conflicted soul of this country at this time, and the collective spirit of its inhabitants. By walking the route as a pilgrim, my steps join the dots between the acts and ideas of the people I meet. Sharing stories is a well-documented part of pilgrimage, and right now, we need new tales! I believe that the sharing of possible futures is a first step towards bringing them into being. By creating spaces for this to happen, ‘New Ways’ is not just a collective endeavour but also a portal to a common future.
After The Walk
Given the collective vision of the project, it would be inappropriate to pre-destine its development beyond the walk. Saying that, it feels really important to generate shareable knowledge, so I will produce and distribute a unique publication. A bit of background: In 1973, BIT Information Service, a kind of organic internet of resources serving UK alternative culture(!) held a competition for people to submit ideas for an alternative society. 'A Book Of Visions: A Directory of Alternative Society Projects' collected around 300 of these ideas under headings like education, housing, ecology, alternative technology, the arts, information services, alternative medical and mental health projects, etc.
'A Book Of Visions' is a fascinating insight into what seemed possible at that juncture of hippy ideology and the subsequent rise of neoliberal thinking. Since stumbling across it, and feeling like we are at a similar juncture, my question to myself has been 'What would a new book of visions look like?'. This journey will allow me to produce part one of 'A New Book Of Visions'. All contributors will receive an offer to contribute their own thinking and a digital copy of the resulting publication. There will be hard copies too.
Why is this important?
In our current social and political climate in the UK, there is a dire urgency for re-imagining our society. This is not about driving home one side or the other of current societal schisms, its about looking for shared inspiration in new places.
The urgency this project is responding to feels tangible and immediate. As our communities and families have been split down the middle by the Brexit vote, and with precious few ideas for reconciliation, the language in media and parliament is ugly, divisive and inflammatory. Alongside this, the emergence of groups like Extinction Rebellion brings climate anxiety into immediate focus, and makes the need for positive future visions ever more necessary. In the light of these developments, this walk is something I feel I have to embark on as soon as possible: a symbolic act of protest, a pilgrimage for peace, and a plea for a common future.
I believe socially-engaged artists are in a unique place to take such work forward. We operate in the margins, in uncertain places and, at its best, this artform has the capacity to coax new shared understandings out of the current darkness that shadows this country and its citizens.
On a personal level, ‘New Ways' is a transitional project for me. Like the country itself, I have teetered on its brink since mid-2016. When the Brexit vote happened I knew that my work as an artist had to more directly and urgently address the upheaval in our society. At that point I began making work that set out to bring people together, through large, collective projects focusing on what we have that we can share, rather than how we are different. In 2016, in the week Donald Trump was elected, I produced a text work that states ‘To challenge the politics of isolation, we need tactics for togetherness’. Ultimately, 'New Ways' can be understood as an enactment of that statement. Bringing people together is a primary incentive for much of my work.
Further back, 'New Ways' has its roots in my film ‘Taking The Michael’. It's about a pilgrimage down the St Michael ley line, that took as its starting point anxiety founded in the then-looming ‘Mayan apocalypse’ date in 2012. The film uses this starting point to explore visions of post-apocalypse for those on the fringes of society - mystics, seers, ex-ravers, renegade archaeologists, off-grid pioneers and permaculturists - moving towards collective visions of hope for humanity as it progresses.
What's in it for you?
Everybody loves a badge, there's some of them, so you can demonstrate your commitment to building another future.
There's digital and physical versions of all my feature-length documentaries, all working around ideas of slow travel, pilgrimage, landscape, and community. 'Arise, You Gallant Sweeneys!' (2010) documents a road trip made back to Western Ireland by a group of Irish working men who travelled to the UK as very young men in the 1950s and 60s, and who never made it home. 'Taking The Michael' (2012) is the story of an unlikely odyssey through ancient and modern Albion, a curious pedal-powered pilgrimage in search of a better future. 'Acts Of Quiet Resistance' (2019) follows Michael, who lives and travels in a horsedrawn wagon, a sparing road movie tracing a transient and timeless existence on the peripheries of modern life. Or you can receive limited edition prints (and t-shirts, shhh, keep it quiet until week three) of my 'Tactics For Togetherness' text artwork.
There are loads of options to engage directly with the project and me the artist: you can book onto a pilgrim staff making workshop, receive hand-drawn, hand printed postcard artworks while I'm walking, or come to the closing meal and ceremony. For the really committed, you can come and spend the day walking or engaging with the project. If you can't make it, I can arrange to come to your house, venue or artspace and show work or talk about the walk after it happens.
The choice is yours, as someone once said.
What will your contribution support?
Quite simply, your contribution will allow the project to happen. It comes down to whether you feel this is a valuable undertaking in the present context of the UK and global society.
If you decide that it is, and I hope you do, your contribution will cover:
- all elements of planning the walk (a not inconsiderable undertaking).
- three research visits.
- the costs of 22 days of walking, talking, sleeping, and eating.
- the final meal and closing ceremony.
- a designer and a photographer.
- a widespread publicity campaign along the route.
- the design, production and distribution of the resulting publication.
Finally, your contribution will support the development of the project beyond this first stage. Whether a film, a book, another pilgrimage or a touring exhibition, it will take place once the walking part has been completed. For now, it is the pilgrimage itself that needs to happen.
Risks and challenges
Anytime I put myself into a position of unknowing, there is risk involved, but that is also where the magic lies. By stepping physically and conceptually beyond what you know, you put yourself in a position of greater awareness and connection to the environment around you. This is what I have come to understand as the pilgrim mentality, and being open to it is key to allowing both chance and planned interactions to lead the way.
This project is part of a Kickstarter initiative supporting social practice artists in the UK. Discover other projects supported from our collaboration with Social Art Network: https://www.kickstarter.com/social-art-networkLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)