I’m walking along the South Dorset Coast Path. The walk is the beginning of a project called ‘Restless’ part awareness raising campaign and part choreographic response to the Coast Path.
I’m with my friends and colleagues, the artist and activist Viv Gordon and producer Sarah Blowers. We have been walking for two days. My feet are swollen and each step hurts. We have walked cliffs so high that at the top you can see how far you’ve already come and how far you have to go.
Viv has come a long way.
On this walk. Seven days, carrying her kit and sleeping in a tiny tent.
And in her life. Her tale is extraordinary. From being sexually abused as a child, to bravely talking about her life through honest and challenging theatre shows.
Only her story isn’t extraordinary. In fact it’s very ordinary. I’m reminded that everyday, everywhere in every town and city and village abuse is taking place. And that this abuse happens in a vacuum of silence, because thats where it flourishes. A number that often comes up in conversation is 11 million. 11 million abused people in Britain today. Today. I can’t take it in. That is enough people to fill not just this coast path, or the beaches that we can see laid out beneath us, but the whole of Dorset. To most of us its invisible. Not to Viv. She sees it everywhere. The paths and benches and rock pools all seem to hum to the sound of the millions of voices with similar stories of abuse.
We walk shoulder to shoulder. She is inquisitive and funny and always seems to hold within her a deep understanding of the tidal, surging, world of emotion we all live in. On the path and in life Viv has a long way to go. She believes that these 11 million peoples voices need to be heard. I sense she is slowly and persistently gathering the force of these people. Through walking, talking, theatre making, writing and at every moment in her life she is affecting change. This project is just the beginning.
As we walk into Lyme Regis to finish our walking for the day she recounts a story from her younger days traveling in Kashmir in her 20’s. A border control guard was trying to extort money from her and her friend, eventually she grabbed their passports and yelled “run”. She is surprised by her own actions because she “isn’t brave”. I’m amused by the story and we laugh but I disagree. She is as brave as anyone I know. For telling her story. For helping others to tell their story and for supporting those who for whatever reason can’t tell their story.
At some point in the future she is planning a larger event. I’ll be there and perhaps you will be too.
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