The World Health Organisation states that art can impact positively on mental, physical and social health. Walkers have repeatedly told us that they enjoy seeing blue skies, spotting birds or flowers on their walks and exploring places in their community they had never visited before.
Walking in the safety of a group helps people become more aware of their surroundings, their place and their role in their community. It creates a sense of belonging and reduces loneliness and stress. Alec believes:
The more we walk together in a place, the more we share a willingness to improve that place. Getting people to engage in an activity, such as walking, helps them to become receptive to creativity.
Working with Alec, as our artist in residence, to offer new ways to connect with and appreciate the walking environment will help to develop a greater sense of place and deeper connection to that place. He says:
The confidence, capacity and ambition of groups varies. Some want to change; others want to belong. There’s no one approach to working creatively with walking groups. I just notice what goes on and make suggestions.
Alec is working with a variety of walking groups including Dementia Friendly Prestwick who offer Dementia Friendly Health Walks and are redesigning the promenade to make it more accessible. Walking aids, such as walking sticks, play an important role in supporting people with limited mobility to walk more. Drawing on the function of walking sticks and their connection to trees Alec and the Dementia Friendly Walking Health Walk group wrote lines of poetry on a series of hazel sticks. This helped the group to connect to the idea of creative walking. When asked "why do people have a close affinity with walking sticks?" Alec explains:
I think every culture has fond objects, for example, old fishing boats or post boxes. Perhaps one reason walking sticks are popular is we still have some reverence for age, or happy associations with grandparents, who often use them. We also love things that are crafted from wood and a walking stick is one of the earliest human tools. Adding a poem should add to the fondness or be a focus for awareness. In some way I see the poem walking sticks as part of my wider aims, to enhance the crucial characteristic I perceive in walking groups: a gentle manifesto for change.
Listen to a podcast interview with Alec Finlay below.
We will keep this page up to date with the creative ideas that Alec enables with each walking group. Find out more about his work here.
Here's other creative ideas we have worked on to promote the role art plays in encouraging more people to enjoy walking.
Humans of the Walk was our 2019 portrait photography exhibition capturing the faces and stories of people who champion everyday walking. Download the leaflet here.
NADFLY is an artist studio specialising in community engagement for wayfinding, placemaking and performance. They have been involved with several of our Smarter Choices, Smart Places funded projects to promote walking and cycling routes through placemaking activities. Find out more here.
Hospitalfield's Meander Health Walk programme worked with artist Sarah Rose to create a new sound and sculpture work from used waste materials of the agricultural fruit industry and found wild fruit. Find out more here.