As part of further exploring walking and learning as an educational tool, I joined an East London Walking Reading Group on Participation. Across four free events, groups of interested people, often participants have arts or education backgrounds, come together to walk for around two hours and discuss issues surrounding participation, engagement, collaboration and social practice. The walks are expertly facilitated by Lydia Ashman, Ania Bas and Simone MairIn in association with Bow Arts, Iniva, Open School East and Whitechapel Gallery.
Participants access readings prior to the event and the walk is preceded by a short talk by a key thinker. Each walk is devised in collaboration with the speaker and the route corresponds to the issues raised. Participants walk in a long crocodile through the streets in pairs. 20 plus people have participated in the last two walks. Every 20 minutes or so the partners swap enabling each member to have around five intimate conversations along the way. The walk ends in the pub for those who are able to stay. Walkers are issued with a small booklet with key quotes from the readings and blank pages to gather ideas and contact details of other participants.
The walks and discussions prove to be a very positive, engaging experience. An opportunity to meet new people
and discuss fascinating issues in a safe and dynamic way. The reading, speaker and route offer a range of stimuli. A whole range of perspectives are given. As discovered in my previous encounters with walking and learning, this activity proves to be a bonding experience between participants. Being active and exposed to a variety of interesting places and spaces has an energising and freeing impact on the quality of conversation and thinking. Using a guest speaker means that participants can ask questions or have deeper conversations during the event.
With careful planning and organisation, this type of walking and learning could be effectively used in more formal education settings as a type of field trip or a means of exploring a topic and engaging with a speaker.