A (dis)enchantment in Cheltenham walking in Pittville park with Cheltenham Tree Officer Chris Chavasse, a Speculative Art School...speculation... Walking slowly and at times without talking (the most difficult bit) considering the multilayered stories folded into this place and our entangled presence there.
Huge trees from the original planting propped up and surviving. Old.
Rattling notions of time and place and queering where is here...the stone itself.
The pumproom built out of stone 175 million years ago, sat on rock similarly formed at the bottom of warm Jurassic seas...where was here, then, what presences unacknowledged?
Ghosts trees and absences. The slaveowners who walked the park, for whom the estate was laid out by speculator Pitt. The architect Stokes, a slaveowner born in Jamaica who sold up in good time to slip through England and on to New Zealand ending up with 30,0000 acres of New Zealand sheep country.
The flow of wealth, its owners unmarked seep from colonised island to colonised island leaving the marked in their wake. Not a word. Don't mention the sugar.
One local resident in 1835 missed out on over £8k in government compensation on the basis of her ownership of 415 people on the Seven Rivers Estate in Jamaica. The enslaved people were mortgaged to a Reverend Henry Mair, man of the church.
Enslaved people received no compensation.
Does the stone capstan on the lake echo those who pushed it round at the tip of the slavemaster's whip crushing the sugar to make the wealth this park manifests?
To the trees, the romance of the holly and the oak no more indigenous than any other invasive coloniser. Its about time and speed, it depends on where here and there is or was.
The swift seeding birch gets in quick from eastern europe as the glaciers retreat and the heavy footed oak lumbers from the warm safety south of the Alps or the Pyrenees. They get across the North Sea before it was there. When the first Brexit was enforced by the rushing meltwater just 33 trees had made it to the safety of Albion' shore.
None of them native, really.
Considering the recent colonial arrivals and the plant hunters who brought them back... how their trophy hunting trips funded perhaps by slave generated wealth in turn colonised knowledges. and occupied the spaces of being. What do we really know about these trees what intelligence could we connect with in them ?
Joseph Pitt MP anti semite and anti catholic speculated on land in Cheltenham. An MP in some of the rotten boroughs of Wiltshire. The Great Reform Act was designed to clean parliament of the likes of him. He opposed electoral reform and was out before the Act came in. In 1812 Lord Suffolk wrote of Pitt to Lord Holland that he was,
a very strong instance why some reform in the representation is necessary. He will from a corrupt influence return 2 Members for Malmesbury, 1 for Cricklade, 1 for Cirencester and 1 for Wootton Bassett all including the votes in the town of Cricklade notoriously corrupt, and all this from his influence as an attorney, a banker, a land jobber and a money lender.4
Now the park is free for everyone to use and the planted dreams of Pitt's landscape architects are realised. Enslaved people have not been compensated. The planet warms faster than oak trees can run. Deep entanglements and responsibilities to consider, especially for white folk.
A walking with the park asking questions taking notes, tweeting..maybe a haiku in the park from someone. The conversation continues, the questioning opens doors, we feel the now brittle dry leaves that dinosaurs ate fresh.
Screening and artists talk
Thursday 25 January City Hall Bristol. 7.30-9.00 pm
Working and walking with survivor testimony as it fades from living memory
Presentation on the Forced Walks project: Honouring Esther. Bringing a story of resistance and hope out of persecution and hate. Short films and sounds from the walks in Somerset and Germany retracing the route of a Nazi Death march. Survivor testimony and contemporary resonance.
Working with co artist Lorna Brunstein I hosted the Forced Walks project, Honouring Esther, in 2015-17. We traced the death march that her mother Esther Brunstein survived...transposed the route to Somerset and then retraced her steps a year later. Part of a process of bringing Esther's experience home to us now and exploring ways of working with survivor testimony as it slips out of living memory. I made some films and sound pieces, Lorna subsequently created powerful installations with material gathered along the way. More here: https://forcedwalks.wordpress.com/
A Holocaust Memorial Day event hosted by Bristol Hannover Council, who, along with Bath Spa University and a host of supporters on Kickstarter supported the original project.
Exploring co-creativity back in September we went in search of antimapper, walking and sensing the silences, gaps and distortions in the official version of the City. Joined by co-creationists from Europe and South America I hosted a counter-mapping walk across the city. Beginning with 6 city sites.....
Co hosted with Katie O'Brien from 44AD and Christina Horvath from University of Bath we walked talked, listened, tasted the walls, touched the stones and told stories of other places.
At 44AD just opposite the Roam Baths, in the basement workshop the following day we reviewed findings, checked out printed up photos and recycled some of Bath's promotional materials. Working on my Bath anti map, an annotated version of a map of the city's official story, the group developed an instant counter-map on the wall. Here we are at work:
This was a developing co creation tactic for stimulating discussion and research on an urban area as part of the conference Co-Creation Network at University of Bath. Here is the squished and squashed map as it was left on the wall reassembled and further reconstructed as evidence of process.
Hands Across the City
Sunday 29th October
Castle Park by the Bristol Bridge entrance, BS1 3XD
Time 12:30 – 16:00
The culmination of the month-long celebration of Journey to Justice Bristol, this historical walk starts at Bristol Bridge. It proceeds to Pero’s Bridge where we shall hold hands to make a human bridge affirming the city’s solidarity with refugees, asylum seekers and migrant communities. We shall end at City Hall with a celebration event. Everyone is encouraged to wear colourful clothing, to make this a real celebration of diversity and of our own personal journeys to justice.
Following the celebrations at City Hall you may like to move on to Hamilton House for ‘Lyrically Justified Speaks Volumes’ from 17:00 – 20:00, an evening of Poetry, dance, music and storytelling.
Find out more here
The current phase of the project comes to completion on Wednesday 20 September with the walk back from the Museum of Bath at Work to the former Workhouse and its Burial Ground. We will complete the last section of the 1856 route as we cross the golf course and make our way through the University of Bath car parks. A route littered with ironies!
This is an all day walk starting with a 10.00 briefing at the Museum of Bath at Work.
Join us at 16.30 or 18.00 at the Burial Ground on Wellsway
We aim to be at the Burial Ground around 16.30, here we will invent for ourselves a short paying of respects to those who died in poverty and whose bodies were disposed of in this field on the edge of the enchanted city. An opportunity to share thoughts and creative responses regarding the space itself and on the themes of poverty, respect, memory. All welcome for this moment. This will complete the cycle of walks exploring Winkworth's 1856 circuit of the parishes with the boys from the workhouse
At 18.00 at the Burial Ground, the next phase begins. John Payne and I invite all those who would like pay their respects and acknowledge those whose lives ended in poverty and are represented at this Burial Ground . We are calling out to those who may be interested in taking this project forward to join us beginning a process that will develop the research on the Workhouse and see some kind of creative memorialisation at the Workhouse Burial Ground. Perhaps we'll do some more of Mr Winkworth's walks and discover more about the other stories of Bath.
If you cant make it and would like to be involved in this, please contact me.
Estimated timings for those who might want to connect with us enroute
14.00 Top of Widcombe Hill entrance to NT Rainbow Woods opposite Copseland
15.00 in Combe Down junction of Belmont Road and Summer Lane..we will be walking along Shepherds Walk
16.00 We will leave Sainsbury's cafe to walk through the Workhouse site and round to the Burial Ground
Here is the route we will take
With many thanks to Phil at Social Hiking here is the aggregated social media trail for the cycle of walks completed in June. This includes all my tweets and pics plus those from contributing walkers. Follow the thumbnail links to pics and tweets. Great walking and powerful thinking.
Monday to Wednesday the last three walks in the Sweet Waters cycle.
Over two days, Monday and Tuesday, we walk to Bristol gathering a virtual cargo and Wednesday we walk back to Bath starting at midsummer sunrise on the Avonmouth Bridge.
Register for the walks here, plenty of places left
Follow the walk live
On Wednesday you might like to follow the walk live, follow it here:
(very strange when there is no data this defaults to the West African coast...)
You should be able to see the walk progressing with the social media postings...please take part in the conversation where ever you are.
You may like to join for some of the walk
I estimate that we will be coming in to Bristol around 9.00, MShed cafe if its open. We will be walking around the harbour then along Feeder road and off towards Keynsham.
I estimate about 14.00 at the Keynsham Brass Mill for a pint
I hope we will be coming into Bath from about 18.00.
On the walk on Saturday there was talk and much sadness about the Grenfell Tower tragedy. How both this warehousing of people and the attitudes shown by the rich and powerful towards them echoes the same deep rooted slaveowner mentality. Thinking about the challenge I was met with about the living conditions of people on the West Indies versus people in West Africa, that took no account of the economic, cultural impact of centuries of European exploitation, the harvesting of human life. Took no account of the lives, loves, the languages, the culture destroyed and never to become, discarded like damaged fruit into the Atlantic. Thinking about the Missing signs appearing round the Grenfell Tower in the richest borough in London, one of the richest cities on earth, in one of the richest countries on this planet. Lost friends, families, networks, communities, potential. All our lost riches. Missing.
A resonance around the theme 'missing' .... this walk in witness becoming more powerful at every step,
Join us as the walk finishes
I would like to finish the walk formally on the stone platform overlooking the Pulteney Weir...down the stone steps at the end of the bridge. Aiming for 19.00 Wednesday.. Remembering the missing. Be there if you can.
I then plan to make my way to the bench at the top of Bathwick fields as an act of remembrance for another friend gone missing from this life.... and if the weather offers it...to sense the planet revolve and watch the sun set. Hope and act for better times
Use the contact form for more details
The first walk of the cycle, Bath's Last Legal Slaveowners, outside the residencies of Bath's Last Legal Slaveowners, those who hung on to the bitter end to claim their share of the £20 million payout. I performed the court judgment angry perhaps for my own white skinned and gendered euro centric collusion, perhaps for the way that They always get away with it. Bear witness at least we can all do that. My sense-ing began playful, turns angry and by the end as we taste sugar and I read Dabydeen turns to tears.
On Tuesday it began with a station announcement "Platform One for the Merchant Venturer to Bristol Temple Meads only"
and I was off into the layering, the obscuring and wondering how to unpick and tell it. So were we all for the rest of the day. I got off at Keynsham met with the walkers and we headed down pst the old Cadbury's factory gates, to the river to the Brass Mill. Another sharp and painful connecting point. Here is the social media trail for the day, a few blips to be ironed out.
and thus we arrived walking through to Bristol having dragged virtual fingers across the sharpest points, the piercing points through which chocolate and tea are made palatable, the deafening bashing out of brass pots and the deadly silence of the money that greased it all. The water cycle, warm wet winds from the Atlantic dampen our cheeks, more than tears flowing in river memory water. Walks continue.
On 23 July 1856, around 60 boys from the Bath Workhouse, led by their schoolmaster Mr William Winkworth, completed a 16 mile walk from the Workhouse in Odd Down around the northern fringes of Bath. Sons of the city's poor, orphans, or whose parents were also Workhouse residents, through the summer of 2017 we will be retracing their steps.
The walks have been devised by Richard White and writer/historian John Payne. The walks are free and in retracing this epic walk we invite walkers on foot and on-line to join a conversation about poverty and welfare.
The walks are associated with the exhibition researched by John Payne: The Poor Man’s Friend?: Bath and the Workhouse 1836-2016 at the Museum of Bath at Work, Thursday 18 May and to October 1st. A number of the walks begin or finish at the Museum.
The forbidding structure of Bath Union Workhouse still stands over looking the city at Odd Down, a walled warning to the 19th century poor. It is now St Martin’s Hospital, largely operated by Richard Branson’s Virgin health care company a branded warning to the poor of the 21st century.
In his research on the evolution of the Workhouse John Payne came across the schoolmaster’s diary for 1856. William Winkworth led the school children on many local walks through that year, but by far the longest was the epic 16 miles with the boys on foot from Odd Down via Weston, Batheaston and Bathford across the River Avon and back via Bathampton. It was certainly an exhausting walk...but for what purpose? Here is the entry:
Wednesday 23 July. Took boys for a walk today 16 Miles distance more or less. Through parts of St. James's[?] Weston Langridge, Swainswick, St Catherine Batheaston Bathford Bathampton and Widcombe - took victuals with us. Met Mr J Bush at Weston. J Dew at Batheaston. Dined at Langridge. Haswell taken ill at Hampton left in charge of two boys was by some means taken to the Hospital. Several were over-tired and faint the heat being excessive. Started at 9 in morning back at 5. Girls went to Hampton Rocks.
Workhouse Walks are based on this epic day out. The first walk takes place on Wednesday 31 May from the former workhouse building to the exhibition. Register here:
In planning the routes Richard has made extensive use of maps and tools on Know Your Place West. This has enabled him to check tracks and trace paths and landscape features. The 2017 walks do not follow the exact 1856 route partly because there is so little information and partly because the more direct paths Winkworth probably took are now busy highways. The idea is to enable walkers to share something of the experience the boys had, and on the July 2017 walk to share something of the physical exhaustion.
Two significant features emerge from the use of KYPW, firstly at the beginning of the walk Richard and John wanted to pay respects to those who died in the workhouse. John’s research showed that over 3000 people were buried in unmarked graves in a nearby field, this burial ground does not show on contemporary maps but is clearly marked on the 1844-88 Ordnance Survey. Using the slider the old Workhouse Burial Ground is now located.
For the end of the walk Richard was trying to work out how they got across the River Avon. On the modern OS map a footbridge is shown across the river alongside the railway bridge, again viewing the old maps confirmed this was a possible crossing point in 1856. A spectacular one then especially if a train passed, as in 1856 the railway through Box tunnel to London had only been open just over 10 years.
The walks take place monthly on a Wednesday, the first, in May, coinciding with the Fringe Arts Bath 2017 walking arts theme, Embodied Cartography and the last, in September, linking up with the new Bath Walking Festival. These are not formal history walks more a long conversation over 5 months about poverty, welfare, well being, respect for the dead and responsibility for the living. Richard and John hope that the walks will raise awareness of the Workhouse burial ground, generate a remembering of those who died in poverty amidst the wealth of the City and whose bodies still lie unmarked in a field with no memorial.
Full details and registration for the walks here