Viv and I have been friends since we were 11, we did amateur dramatics together, my dad was our head of 6th form and I am now her producer. I didn’t know that Viv was an abuse survivor until we were both in our 30s. In hindsight it makes sense, certain behaviours over the years, triggers, anger, what I sometimes thought was weird shit in our theatre studies A level class.
As a theatre maker I have always made work about tricky subjects, injustice and have often been drawn to telling womens stories. In this process I have seen myself as an ally but as the walk approaches I have started to consider whether we all sit on the spectrum as survivors, in differernt ways . In no way do I want to claim my story as a survivor, or be seen to be jumping on the band wagon but as a 47 year old woman I too of course have my own baggage, history and scars.
For me the idea of a walk has always felt very primal, a protest, a walk out of our lives because the shit has got so bad that the only thing that we have left to do is walk, walk out, drop everything and go.
In 2014 I remember reading a news story of two indian girls who had been gang raped and then hung in their village. At the time I was working on a large scale domestic violence project in Gloucestershire. I felt so outraged at the scale of this global violence against women that I felt compelled to walk out of my life and walk to India. To invite people to walk with me, walk out of their lives as a protest against this continous violence against women. My son pointed out that my geography was so bad I would never make it, he was of course right and of course I didn’t do it. But the urge to walk out in protest against violence and abuse has not gone away.
So here I am, two nights before we leave, wearing my new walking boots around the house and having just walked 5 miles with a 12 kg rucksack as a practise. The baggage is heavy and without sounding like a wanker of course I have started to feel what it is like to carry baggage, really heavy baggage and it hurts!
It’s hard and I feel that the week is going to be hard but I’m also excited as it feels like a week where we can start to think about what walking out means. What carrying your own baggage up and down hills feels like and what walking on the edge is. I’m curious to sit with my own stories of baggage, abuse and family history and what conversations Viv and I will have with each other and the artists and participants that join us.
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I'll be posting my personal reflections on creating work as an artist with mental health needs, my work with the wider sector and interesting developments in arts and mental health.