Walking for change

On Friday we had the great pleasure of meeting artist & mental health campaigner Viv Gordon to walk the section of Coast Path around the Isle of Portland. As part of a new project called ‘Restless’ Viv has been walking 86 miles of the South West Coast Path to research how this unique landscape can inspire new ways of talking about trauma, childhood sexual abuse and gender-based violence.

We met Viv, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, her producer Sarah and two incredibly talented hip hop artists Beth Griffin and Dave Leong of 5 mics to discuss how walking and connecting with nature can bring a new perspective to this complex topic. We also spent some time walking together in silence to be alone with our own thoughts.

It was a typically British day with every type of weather thrown at us, but despite the wind and rain, there was a wonderful warm energy amongst the group. Portland is different. Different from the rest of Dorset and from the rest of the Coast Path. An almost-island, jutting out into the English Channel, joined to the mainland only by the end of Chesil Beach, it has an isolated air. Formed of limestone, it has been extensively quarried and these workings, some still operational, characterise much of the landscape. Elsewhere, former military buildings and those of Verne Prison and the Young Offenders’ Institution are prominent. Portland has a rugged beauty and is well worth exploring with superb views and a rich natural and historic heritage. Click here for more information about the walk. 

Viv and Sarah continued their walk over the weekend, hosting a participation day on Sunday for artists and survivors to come together. Here is an extract from Viv’s blog about the day:

“Wow, wow, wow. What an uplifting day we had yesterday on our participation day. Despite the rain a small and perfectly formed band of brave warrior souls rocked up to walk with us in the morning, with more joining at lunchtime and yet more walking from or waiting at West Bay to meet us.

We walked together (obvs), talked and took space to think and feel. The sea was fierce and the cliffs were high and dramatic. On Freshwater beach we made the word RESTLESS from found objects - rocks, driftwood and seaweed. On the beach at West Bay we lit a fire, formed a circle and made the simple empowering statement that each of us was there to say no to abuse and violence.

One participant sang to us. Her song, about the sea, traced a metaphor for deep emotions and returning to feeling after the numbness of shock and trauma. Another read to us from Marianne Williamson “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”
We made a dance together, each person contributing a movement inspired by their day - simple and beautiful gestures of crashing waves, soaring birds, reaching hands and open hearts.

Coming together as survivors and allies feels like a daunting prospect - isolation, secrecy and shame are hard wired into us - but the actual act of gathering, sharing and bearing witness was warm and affirming. I take my hat off - a very stupid cat hat with ears -to each one of us, to all living with this story and each transgressive step out of silence.

Click here to see more photos from our day walking together on Portland. You can also find out more about the project by visiting Viv’s website and read her daily blog updates about her journey so far. If you are interested in getting involved in the project, please contact Viv Gordon or Becky Millington at the South West Coast Path Association.

Published on: Aug. 13, 2018