No Birds Land – One Year On

Sound Walk and Art Installation, September 2021-September 2022

Sound Walk September, a global festival, has come round again and I am minded to reflect on the year that No Birds Land has been in the Trinty Tunnel on the Edinburgh cycle paths. Here is last year’s blog with all the details about location, transcript and documentation.

Funded by Sustrans and the RSPB, No Birds Land was shortlisted for a Sound Walk September award in 2021, and a year later, No Birds Land is still up, albeit in a different form.

Cave paintings

The preparation time for No Birds Land consisted of lengthy email conversations, and long hiatuses between communications with lots of departments of the City Council and tunnel owners; a frustrating process. I was in contact with all my local MSPs and Councillors, most of whom were very helpful, and some who pulled strings behind the scenes I think. In the end someone (maybe anonymously) telephoned me and suggested I just went ahead instead of waiting for permissions!

What remains?

Although I had initially planned for wooden A boards at either end of this place where birds cannot nest or sing and hardly ever fly, the signage folk persuaded me that street signs would be better, given the weather and so on, and they have been fantastic, standing stalwart through wind and rain. With their air of familiar street furniture, you need to look twice before realising that they are something a little bit different. Furthermore, covered in graffiti and stickers nowadays, they blend into the tagged landscape beautifully.

The sound endures on the cloud. The QR code printed in indelible inks, its distinctive black and white geometrical pattern prevailing, is the interface between the ubiquitous mobile phone and ‘Soundcloud’, where it sits waiting to be triggered and listened to. It’s an eerie experience for me to walk or cycle through and hear my own voice: “What can you hear? Hear, hear. What can you he-he-he…?”

I never thought it would still exist so much later, indeed I was asked how long it would be up and warned that it wouldn’t last long, what with vandals and so on, that I better watch out for any danger it might cause.

So what has changed?

The very long string of bunting with bird images and sounds on it, was trickier to install than I imagined even though I had my friend, tall-Andrew, to assist, so people stopped. They wanted to know what we were up to and immediately started to help. This community involvement has continued.

For 6 weeks it was untouched, but in October when I proudly led a group of Pilgrimage for COP26 hikers through to show them, it had suffered its first attack and much of it was lying in pools of bright orange water, the run-off from the walls which had collected ores and elements on its way down.

Look at the colours the rain has co-created with the graffiti and the wall itself!

I had been checking almost daily before we left for Dunbar and the start of our Climate Trek. I would stand or sit close by to watch people interacting with it, listening to their conversations if they were in groups, and asking them what they thought if I sensed they were up for a chat. Despite my fears, it had stayed whole.

At this stage of the Pilgrimage, we had a journalist with us who was interviewing me as we walked and my distress was obviously clear because other members of the group started to kindly collect the parts and attempt to make good. However, we had to continue on our way to South Queensferry, so I phoned artist-Lesley that evening and asked her if she might do her best to attend to it until I was able to do so myself, and she kindly obliged.

Rotting twine

It has taken on a life of its own

Since then, unseen passers by have often repaired and rehung lengths. I used to do it myself but after 6 months, I thought I would leave it to have its own life, and now I see new types of string connecting the pennants, and sections which weren’t there one day have magically reappeared the next. Little changes have been made, signalling the care that has been taken, and also showing, subtly to me, that there is understanding of the work itself.

The graffiti scrawlers add to it, another artist has complemented it, and nature has made many changes. Walking with Jim Slaven along the canal as part of the Art Festival in August 2022, I was interested to hear him comparing the 2 tunnels along the Forth and Clyde, how one was built soundly, is dry and in tact, and the other was not and lets in the rain. Well the engineer who built the Trinity Tunnel, Thomas Grainger (no relation, even though that’s the exact name of my grandfather who was also a tunnel engineer and worked in Trinity House in London!) didn’t do a great job, because ‘my’ tunnel is verr-ry damp.

And it seems to still have life because when people ask what I do and I tell them about No Birds Land, they know what I mean. They say “Oh yes, I’ve seen it and like it”. Walking along an adjacent path recently, I met a Community Policeman and he knew it too. Talking to dog walkers who were telling me what they thought of the new Sound Walk / Installation, The Wall (my entry for the Sound Walk September 2022), I heard, “Oh you are the artist! Yes, I listened to that and told my neighbours on the stair, ‘you must listen to The Wall’. We need more of these.” It’s heartening, of course.

The Wall, Western Breakwater, Granton Harbour

What is much harder to ascertain, is the effect that No Birds Land has had. Has it informed people about the plight of our nesting birds and why that is happening? Has it suggested alternatives to the prevailing habits of designing glass buildings with no ledges for birds to perch on, nor eaves for them to make their nests under, for example? That is so much more difficult to guage.

This type of long-term intervention in a public space, which is used by commuters and other regulars as a through-way between the sea and the city, encourages people to eventually stop and check it out, it allows for re-listening and sharing with friends and family (I have been told this). It went up at the tail end of the Covid restrictions, at a time when walking was still super-popular, and so there is a high footfall (12-48 people an hour depending on whether it’s a week day or a Sunday). It has repurposed the space and brought art outside and to its audience.

Sound Walk September Festival

Here is an interactive map and full list of walking pieces on the walk.listen.create website, and here is a full programme of events. There are three different ways you can get involved:

  • In-situ pieces (like The Wall); These are timetabled pieces which take place at a physical location
  • Downloadable sound walks; These can be downloaded and undertaken at a time of the walker’s choosing
  • Online events; these events have a nominal fee and range from group discussions to artist-hosted talks and hands-on workshops.

And for artists, there are four ways to get involved:

  • Submit a piece to the walk · listen · create platform
  • Host a timetabled sound walk event in a physical location
  • Host or participate in an online event
  • Enter for the Sound Walk September Award

Press coverage

‘Wondrous Variation; in the Broughton Spurtle

Grief Circle and Mandala

Sunday 2 October 2022 at granton:hub 12.15 – 2.15pm

Book via Eventbrite

This meeting will take the form of a floor-seated circle of participants, a ritual to contain our grief, a structure within which to allow feelings to flow at a manageable rate.

With respect and compassion, a sharing circle will be facilitated and a safe space held for you to bring your grief and memories with a view to Re:live (both the past and in the future). Held in the same room as the Death Café (the evening before) and the Re:living Art Exhibition.

After the circle, we will go outside to find natural materials for the Mandala. You can also include materials that you bring with you.

Back inside, you will be gently directed to create your own personal mandala on a piece of cloth on the floor.

At the end there will be a Closing Ritual for this session and the Mandala, and for the whole weekend.

The Mandala will be temporary in the same way that life is. A photograph will be taken for you to keep if you want it as a record, and then it will be dismantled at the end of the session.

Please bring a cushion and blanket with you, as well as any items or mementoes you may like to include in your Mandala. We will supply tea lights and pieces of cloth on which to make your Mandala.

Co-curators: Bea Denton (London) Tamsin Grainger (Granton, Edinburgh)

Bea is an artist and educator whose practice explores ideas around death and loss, faith and ritual. She has taught and managed courses at Arts University Bournemouth, UAL (Camberwell, London College of Communication and Central Saint Martins), at EBAC in Brazil and Artslink in China. She is a Trustee for Lewisham Education Arts Network (LEAN) and a member of the Artist’s Group, Throes of Grief.

Tamsin is a community artist (No Birds Land, Trinity Tunnel; The Wall, Western Breakwater), complementary therapy practitioner, session leader, and author of Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice (published by Singing Dragon Press).

Re:living Weekend

30 Sep – 2 Oct 2022 granton:hub, (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS

The Re:living Weekend is a response to our human need to talk, walk, remember, and make art about the ever-present experiences of death, grief and loss in our lives. Whether we are grieving for a close friend, pet or family member; concerned about the loss of bird, insect or plant habitats and other changes to our climate; affected by war; or managing on-going / one-off life events around relationship, work and/or home loss, coming together with others to focus, share, or simply be with our feelings is supportive.


Programme

30 Sep Walkshop 2-4pm

30 Sep Memory Art Workshop 4.30-6.30pm

1 Oct Mixed media pop-up Art Exhibition 11am-4pm

1 Oct Death Cafe 6.30-8pm

2 Oct Mixed media pop-up Art Exhibition 10am-12noon and 4.30-6.30pm

2 Oct Grief Circle and Mandala 12.15-2.15pm

Venue

All activities will take place in or around granton:hub (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS.

Booking

You may like to engage with one or more events, or all of them.

To book for the whole weekend click here

For the Memory walkshop

For the Memory Art workshop

There is no need to book for the Art Exhibition

For the Death Cafe

For the Grief Circle and Mandala

Or contact tamsinlgrainger@gmail.com. All events are free although donations (to cover costs) are welcome.

c Bea Denton

Re:living Art Exhibition

1st October 11am-4pm; 2nd October 2022 10am-12noon and 2.30-4.30pm at the Granton Hub (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS.

Showing the mixed media work of selected artists from Granton, Edinburgh and around the UK, this pop-up exhibition addresses themes of death, grief, loss, and re:living. This varied exhibition includes painting and drawing, artists books, sculpture, film and poetry.

More details here

Re:living walkshop and memory art workshop

We welcome everyone, whatever age, ability, status or gender. The walk- and workshop will be conducted in English. Please note that the walkshop will be fully accessible, however the Granton Hub is not fully accessible. We do have a portable ramp to allow wheelchair and powerchair users to get into the building, which you will have access to, and once in the building there is level access but no there is no wheelchair accessible toilet.

Walkshop: Friday 30 September Meet at Madelvic House for a 2pm departure. We will return there by 4pm. Book here

Participants will be taken on a prescribed route around the area immediate to the Granton Hub.

Participants will be invited to bring an object (or image) that speaks to them of absence and/or loss, to help channel thoughts and memories. This will be something small enough to hold in the hand, or put into a bag or back pack while walking. During the walk, we will be facilitating creative activities, so the object shouldn’t inhibit creativity.

During the Walkshop, participants will be invited to walk, sometimes in silence, and to respond to the environment and to their personal experience and thoughts about death, loss and grief through drawing, writing, recording, performance etc. There will be times to stop and draw, to record sounds, to photograph, to write or to perform.

Memory Art Workshop: Friday 30 September 4.30-6.30pm. Book here

The Memory Art Workshop will take place at Granton Hub after the Walkshop, and will begin with group reflection and discussion about experiences and feelings from the Walkshop.


During the Workshop, participants will be asked to witness and listen to each other, and are encouraged to share and talk about the drawings / photographs / sounds / writing that they made during the Walkshop. This is not a critique, and we do not expect participants to have any previous art and design experience or qualification.

Following this discussion, you will be invited to draw / write / record / photograph in response to your own and/or others work and shared experiences. Transformation is a key element in this Workshop – making new multi-layered works that materialise grief through transformation of images, words, sounds etc. Participants will create new works using simple techniques, that will be layered to form new composite works that will be exhibited at Granton Hub on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd October.

All materials will be provided.

Please note that there will be a half hour break inside between the Walkshop and Workshop for refreshments (provided, though contributions gratefully received).

c Bea Denton

Death Cafe

Saturday 1 October 6.30-8pm at granton:hub Book here

Death Café is a group meeting in person in Edinburgh where people can come to talk about death. Book via Eventbrite

Talking about death is not something that we can all do with our families and friends, and yet it is something which is so often on our minds.

At the Death Café, there is an emphasis on listening and sharing, and the focus is that life is finite and we want to talk about that. We all have interests and concerns about bereavement, loss, grief or dying, especially at this time when we are dealing with the Coronavirus and fears of war.

Full details here

c Tamsin Grainger

Grief Circle and Mandala

Sunday 2 Oct 12.15 – 2.14pm Book via Eventbrite

This meeting will take the form of a floor-seated circle of participants, a ritual to contain our grief, and the creation of your own personal mandala.

More details here

Curators

Bea Denton (London) is an artist and educator whose practice explores ideas around death and loss, faith and ritual. She has taught and managed courses at Arts University Bournemouth, UAL (Camberwell, London College of Communication and Central Saint Martins), at EBAC in Brazil and Artslink in China. She is a Trustee for Lewisham Education Arts Network (LEAN) and a member of the Artist’s Group, Throes of Grief.

Tamsin Grainger (Granton) is a community artist (No Birds Land, Trinity Tunnel; The Wall, Western Breakwater), complementary therapy practitioner, session leader, and author of Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice (published by Singing Dragon Press).

c Tamsin Grainger

Contact: tamsinlgrainger@gmail.com

Call for Artists and Makers

Re:living Exhibition: Call for Artists and makers

1st October 11am – 4pm; 2nd October 2022 10am and 12noon and 2.30-4.30pm at the Granton Hub (Madelvic House), Granton Park Avenue, Edinburgh EH15 1HS.

 We are inviting artist submissions for the Re:living Exhibition that address themes of Death, Grief, Loss, and Re:living. There is no prescribed media for submitted work, and can include art/design/craft.

 All work submitted should be suitable for this Granton pop-up Community Centre setting. You can see details of the room here https://grantonhub.org/ including the Sphinx Room which size is 8.75m x 4.7m. The ceiling is 3.3m high.

 Please send a digital image / brief description of the submitted artwork (no more than 3 items per person) with related web address (including contact details and social media), suggested selling price, and short bio (50 words max). Publicity photos/short video of you and your work will be required if selected.

 A 20% commission will be taken by Granton Hub on all individual works sold, and fees payable for the work sold will be made by bank transfer within 2 weeks of the close of the exhibition.

 Your work should be no bigger than A2 size (or thereabouts) and will be either wall, table (a basic refectory type table), or floor-mounted (note: there is a carpet, so no water, earth, sand etc unless completely contained). If wall-based, work should be framed and include mirror plates or D rings.

Please include the running time (in minutes) for video and audio works, and a short description of the piece. If video or audio work is selected, artists will need to supply playback equipment and ensure that it is PAT tested, with proof of compliance PRIOR to the exhibition opening.

We have a screen and moveable seating available for public showings. Artists will need to bring their own plinth(s) if needed.

 If your work is selected, it must be delivered directly to the venue on Friday 30 September at 1pm or 6.30pm, and collected on Sunday 2nd October between 4.30 and 6.30pm. Please note that this is a group exhibition of mixed media work in a non-formal gallery setting (blue carpet, walls painted either pale green or white), and will be exhibited between on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd October only. You are encouraged to attend and engage with the public during these times.

It is your responsibility to insure your work and neither we, nor the Granton Hub, can take any liability for its loss or damage.

 It will be assumed that the organisers will be able to take photos during the event which can be used on social media and websites. Credits will be included where feasible.

We regret that Madelvic House is not fully accessible. We do have a portable ramp to allow wheelchair and powerchair users to get into the building, which you will have access to, and once in the building there is level access, but no there is no wheelchair accessible toilet.

Deadline for submissions: 9th September 2022

We will make our decision by: 16th September 2022

Final photos and other information will be required by: 23rd September 2022

Address for submissions: tamsinlgrainger@gmail.com

Image: Bea Denton @

Festivities and Delegates

Part of the Separation and Unity Project, Cataluña, July 2022

This wall hanging, ‘Festivities and Delegates’ represents an act of unity, the bringing together of many of those who attended the Walking Art and Relational Geographies International Encounters conference in Cataluna in July 2022. Planned for several years, but thwarted by the pandemic, delegates were at last able to travel from Australia, South Africa, Brazil, America and Europe to the conference in Girona, Olot, and Vic to share walking art and community projects via presentations and walkshops over a period of a week.

This work was inspired by the 18th /19th century ‘Saints and Festivities for the months of April to November’ in the Museu Montserrat. I climbed up there after attending the conference. The ornate Russian ‘menologion’ is a calendar featuring rows of saints, above which are their names and the dates of the days on which they are honoured, in cyrillic script.

This would have been a visual reminder of the annual Masses of the Orthodox Church which celebrated many different saints.

A menologion (menologium, menology, menologue, menologia) was sometimes a liturgical ‘office’, an ecclesiastical, Eastern Orthodox service book or martyrology; a long list of saints and the details of their lives arranged according to the months of the year.

It is not dissimilar to the secular mural at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh depicting key figures and events in the history of Scotland. The Separation and Unity Project is interested in the movements towards and away from independence by Scottish and Catalonian peoples, at what urges us to separate from, or join with each other.

I am also referencing Buddhist and Hindu mandalas, and other celebratory depictions used to inspire their followers and remind them of the true path. Mandalas come in many shapes and sizes, often using geometric arrangements. They can represent the whole universe, and be used as a way to separate from everyday existence and focus on what is important for greater knowledge. The Vajrabhairava mandala, for example, is a silk tapestry woven with gilded paper depicting lavish elements like crowns and jewelry.

The human mind is like “A microcosm representing various divine powers at work in the universe”

John Ankerberg and John Weldon (343:1996) via Wikipedia (see below)

Process and production of Festivities and Delegates

I took digital photos and video stills from my phone documentation of the conference and the social time we spent together, and manipulated the images using free Layout software. In some cases I used social media images. Instead of the elaborate calligraphy that you can see on the Russian ‘Festivities…, I wrote free-hand with my finger or with a biro.

Details: 160cm long and 70cm wide, mixed media – sewed from scraps of upholstery fabric which came from free sample books. Ribbons, tapes and sundry, shiny objects such as bells, earings which have lost their pairs, and sequins. Iron-on paper was used to transfer the photographs onto the fabric.

It incorporates a number of small brass and other metal bells, with reflective totems. These were/are often used to ward off evil spirits, to bring ones attention into the moment, to reflect the devil’s face back to him, and, contrastingly, even to represent the sound of the Buddha’s ‘voice’ spouting wisdom. The protective aspect would also traditionally have been as much from the ‘monkey mind’ and other natural inner temptations, as from what might be attacking us from the outside. Tantric mandalas would have been an aspect of separation and protection from the outer Samsaric world.

Quote: from their ‘Encylopedia of New Age Beliefs: The New Age Movement’, (p. 343, ISBN 9781565071605 archived from the original on 2016-06-03, retrieved 2015-11-15)

The Wall

31 July 2022

Update

The developers have shut off the area – ironic (see below) – and it’s currently impossible for anyone to get to this installation. However, you can listen below and look at the photos, imagine you are walking and listening

A Sound Walk and Installation on the Western Breakwater, Granton Harbour, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Artists Talk / Tour of The Wall Tuesday 20 September 6-7pm Book here (eventbrite). Free. I will post here if it looks like it will be possible to do this.

At the very edge of the harbour, bordering a piece of scrubland whose time is nearly up – it won’t be long before it is ‘developed’ – is a tall wall separating the reclaimed land from the sea. It’s hard to find out who built it and why, but I have a pretty good idea. It’s marked as Granton Breakwater on google maps, although there are in fact three ‘arms’ to the harbour: the best known is Eastern Breakwater (note that the beach, Wardie Bay, is to the east side of that); the Middle Pier (recently renamed Chestnut Street – why?); and the Western one where the soundwalk is located.

This is a spot of ‘guerilla art’, in the same vein as guerilla gardening!

Walls have been in the news in recent years and this unprepossessing one tends to go unnoticed, with the general exception of dogs and their companions. It borders the area which is, as I say, undergoing intense development, most of it for the luxury market. The plans show that there will be concrete walkways and a communal ‘garden’.

Walls serve complex functions and produce varying effects on the socio-geographical aspects of an area, an area in this case which has a rich history. The Granton community used to work and play here every day, it was alive with industry, and their voices can still be heard if you listen carefully.

Before – the site of an old railway with hooks for cables

In the meantime, small parts of the harbour have been returned to straight channels of water, and the railway line and its attendant buildings have, in the most part, disappeared.

It is a psychogeographer’s dream!

After

Keeping people in check – restrictions

The wall has a distinctive voice. It is not shy to speak, indeed it wants to be heard, it has something to say. After all, it’s another of those structures, like trees and the sea, which is always in one place, come rain, come shine, and has therefore witnessed a lot of what goes on over the ages. The southern end is still covered with roughcast, a sort of pebbledash, and if you look carefully there are fragments of crockery and other interesting hints of these lives.

(Beware the thistles! And try not to crush the chamomile, although if you arrive before midday you can gingerly remove a handful of flowers for a tisane which will taste quite delicious compared to the tea bags you can get in Lidl. The plants will simply send out more blooms in response, and their days are numbered).

Chamomile

This is a land of fences, and as fast as ‘they’ put them up, people have found ways through. Mostly. This was, after all, common ground for nearly 200 years. However, there are two places now where access / exit is impossible, making it necessary to approach the installation the long way round, past security cameras, and for no discernible reason.

Hesperus Crossway

During the past few years, place names have been changed, walls have been smoothed over, fittings removed, and ‘messy’ buildings have been redecorated so as to almost wipe out any hint of their former daily functions. The result is a gentrification and appropriation (in the name of regeneration), which erases most external reminders of the past. It must be remembered, though, that ‘the past’ was made by people, and many of those people still live in the area. Their memories are part of who they are; this past is a valuable part of their lives.

The chalk mural will disappear over time, and if a previous installation, No Birds Land is anything to go by, it may also be vandalised. These changes will be part of the duration and time-based aspects of the piece. It will be difficult to know who walks, hears and sees the installation, but by pacing the edgeland like this, learning about this liminal area and feeling the effect it gives, it is hoped that you and it will be stimulated.

The Wall

You can locate this soundwalk and installation by taking the West Harbour Road, and turning onto Chestnut Street. There is a ‘Private’ sign. Turn left onto Hesperus Crossway, and go to the very end of the road. 

what 3 words: ///voted.cycles.impose

Slip through the fence and walk forwards. It is a dead end, and in front of you is The Wall.

There is a new fence to your left, meeting the wall at right angles, part of which has been pushed down. You can go over that into the section of scrub land and walk towards the wall. There you will see the QR code to scan with your mobile phone and can then listen to the walk (headphones will probably be best).

You will see some of the chalk drawing ahead of you, and the wall stretching to both sides with the main part of the installation to the left. Once you are listening to the audio, you can walk in each direction according to the instructions, or make your own choice. In total the sound walk is 13 minutes 44 seconds, and it could take you around half an hour to 45 minutes to explore the whole.

Please note that there is nowhere to park except on West Harbour Road, so it’s best to cycle or walk. Or, you can get a bus to Granton Square (16, 47, 19, 200) and walk from there – it will take you around 10 minutes.

If you are not in Edinburgh or cannot get to the harbour, here is a link to the audio part.

I have tried to upload the walk to the Echoes app but it has been unsuccessful. I will try again later.

You may also like to download the Curious Edinburgh app, which will take you to other aspects of the harbour and tell you all about it. Also the Granton History and Railscot websites.

I lead a community walk as part of 4WCoP22 on Thursday 4 August at 1pm in person (meeting Chestnut Street), and you can find out more about it here.

Girona mini-pilgrimage

This was the first of three mini-pilgrimages offered to delegates of the international meeting ‘Walking Art and Relational Geographies’ and others in Girona, Cataluña. 6 July 2022

We met at the foot of the steps of the Catedral de Girona, a traditional location for the start of a pilgrimage. As we waited for the group to assemble, I asked, do you see any pilgrim signs?

The statues at the front of the building are inset with the shell motif behind them – the iconic scallop being the emblem which pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela sported.

We searched for the yellow arrows which are used to indicate the path; instead we were surrounded by the yellow ribboned loops of the Cataluñan Independence movement.

Sign of the Cataluñan Independence Movement on the pilgrim path

We were a group of approximately twelve, and I explained that I had changed the place we were walking to once I knew the start time was 9pm (sunset is around 9.20 here), and now that the city and I had started to get acquainted in person, rather than virtually from Scotland in the initial planning stages.

The title of my walking project here is Separation and Unity, being aware of the political issues that concern Scotland and Cataluña, both, in their debates and attempts at achieving autonomy from England and Spain respectively.

We performed some simple experiential exercises: huddling close, noting that we were united in our interest in walking, turning outwards to acknowledge those people around us who were not in our group or who were in groups of their own.

We began some chi gung exercises, a method of grounding and centering in the body. It became clear that we needed to take more space for ourselves in order to move individually. We were moving together, separately and experimenting with breathing in unison.

Through Girona’s city walls

Last week, I walked part of the Cami Sant Jaume alone, as a secular pilgrimage.
I was on the path with others – dog walkers, cyclists, 2 hikers. Walking part of this age-old tradition, I knew there were others who went before me and who will come after.

Now our group traced a pilgrim path through the archway made by the city walls and, despite there being no external signs to guide us, we headed downhill to the river. We left the heavy, archetypal building behind and walked in silence, in single-file, with the thick, steep walls with religious iconography on either side.

As we walked down Reí Marti, we paid attention to our connection with the elements – the paved surfaces under our feet, the air and water – indivisible.

Also to the birds we could hear but not always see, the insects we only knew were there if we looked very carefully or when they bit us, the other folk milling around the city. We were a mass moving inside and outside the city walls.

We were aware of each other walking together. Our intention was clear.

As the streets opened out, we turned left taking Carrer del Bellaire and heading straight for the river, passing once again,
underneath, though by now we were amongst modern architectural constructs. The train line ran overhead.

Around the cornerstone the left, was the Column of the History of Girona, a pillar of stone whose four sides depicted images and text saying this ancient settlement back to the Neolithic.

We were at the River Onyar and the Pont (bridge) de Pedret which formed a crossroads where the first Cami de Sant Jaume and other route signs were located.

We looked back at Cathedral
There are messages of separation ‘Libertat’, ‘Bienvenue a la République de Catalogne’ alongside theVies Verdes (green cycling / walking ‘carrilet’ route (a modest narrow guage railway) I took out of the city last week

We glimpsed the La Devesa Park where we walked yesterday.

As I walked out of Girona, I moved from the urban environment, the edge lands where people were growing crops in their hueltas / allotments, and then out of town, walking between city and towns. There were people stringing these urban places together by walking between them to work and school.

I was carrying my clothes and sleeping mat with me, crossing the country, from Osona to La Garrotxa and into the Barcelona región.  

We completed our mini-pilgrimage at the foot of the steps of Basílica de Sant Feliu, a familiar way to end a pilgrimage. Close by is the statue of la Lleona (lioness) whose bottom/ass you are invited to kiss, an 11th century folk tradition.

Basílica de Sant Feliu
La Llona

Soundscape by Ralph Hoyte Temple of Hermes

Granton Community Walk

The Absent Trees of Granton

The walks took place, in-person and virtually, on 4 / 5 August 2022, 1pm

At Chestnut Street, Granton Harbour, Edinburgh, walking to Waterfront Avenue. (The exact meeting place was What 3 Words: ///talent.dads.dots and  co-ordinates: 55.983248,-3.229066) and around the world.

This was a 4WCoP 2022 event

The Absent Trees of Granton cordially invited you to walk without them.

Your presence was requested on a walk from the reclaimed wastelands of Middle Harbour, Edinburgh (“Million Tree City”[1]) where trees grew before development, to the building site of Waterfront Avenue where trees have been felled for housing. We Wish We Were Here. We are in spirit. Or are we?

Once it was water then a hive of industrial and human activity. Cargo was shipped in from all over the globe, and transported out by rail to the city, Lothians and beyond
Our in-person route

I co-led with Charlotte Rooney and group activities focused on the touch, smell and taste of trees.

Charlotte Rooney

In her blog (see link above) Charlotte wrote about:

  • Symbiosis
  • Reciprocity
  • Listening

“My breath feels grubby today, a bit noxious, and it’s uncomfortable, until I remember that this is exactly what the tree needs. My breath is a treasure.”  

Charlotte Rooney
Looking back towards the harbour – Waterfront Avenue

What happens when you change the name of a place?

Posing questions about the importance of naming and local history in ‘belonging’, we walked streets that had other names before now. Their new ones come from the City Council’s list, so Chestnut Street has no relationship to Chesnut (sic) Rock which is shown on the old maps, and Granton Station is not where it once was; its name has been given to a different building entirely, thoroughly confusing local people  who once played there as children.

Exactly how much earth is needed?

We asked how much earth we all need to thrive on, and this question brought about tension between the need for new housing and the necessity of trees. 20 per cent of the new Harbour development is planned to be affordable, but the rest includes a 4 star spa hotel and luxury flats with free dog washing facilities. Is that a good balance? Architectural plans show that new trees will be planted in pots, and a development which took place 10 years ago now sports rows of quite established Limes and substantial manicured hedges. The trees which have been ripped up against local people’s wishes have left raw land behind the new Granton Station. Is all this enough – for repairing the environment, for our need of a little ‘wildness’, for the psychogeographer’s bent towards some chaos in an otherwise geometrical world?


Artists from Scotland, Australia and England RSVP-ed

Deborah Roberts, Sophie Cunningham Dawe, and Richard Keating posted or sent me images

Deborah Roberts – New shoots growing from a felled ash
Richard Keating

what happens in the mysterious space/place between gaze and subject of gaze, observer/participant?

Richard Keating

Your project offered me a simple way to spend time with my mother’s beautiful tree… I am grateful for the drawings I made, simple gestures/ memento artefacts, a gentle marking of a significant time/place/memory

Sophie Cunningham Dawe, Melbourne, Australia
But where are the Chestnut Trees?
Quite a contrast from this chestnut tree in a leafy Kentish village

This was a community event with Tamsin Grainger and guests, and we were happy to have Ruthe, Arboricultural Officer at the City of Edinburgh Council with us to hear our concerns and offer her expertise. No-one from the new Granton Development answered the invitation.

From….to…

Disorientating, shocking, disrespectful

Now we were here, now we are not
Ffrom one minute to the next, such immense changes, such age and service, uprooted overnight

[1] https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/12729/edinburgh-2030-a-million-tree-city Jan 2020

International Walking Encounters – Cataluña

The Project – part 1

June/July 2022

The first part of The Separation and Unity Project between Edinburgh and Cataluña takes the form of walking, walkshop and outdoor performance as part of WALKING ARTS ENCOUNTERS, Walking Arts and Relational Geographies

There is a spiritual-political-geographical link between Edinburgh, Scotland where I live, and Cataluña in the Iberian Peninsula where the Encounters are taking place (Girona, Olot and Vic). In both countries, we have long been engaged in matters of self-determination, with debates over separation and unity, community, national and inter-national relationships. Whilst primarily represented as a battle fought in law courts and parliaments, or between opposing protesters on the streets, this has often been a binary approach. It is necessary to spend time listening, sharing and making work with artists and members of the community in order to understand each other better and find possible ways forward.

Europe is defined, in many ways, by borders. They speak of crumbled empires, shifting boundaries – most of them, …. speak of unimaginable suffering.

Kerri ni Dochartaigh ‘Thin Places’ p17

As a walking artist, secular pilgrim, feminist and outdoor performer, I will carry the awareness of these issues from the Scottish hills to the Cataluñian mountains, from Edinburgh’s extinct volcanoes (Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill and Castle Rock) to the volcanic land of Olot, and between Oak Wood in the Lammermuir Hills and the oak trees of the Plain of Vic.

I have been walking the St Margaret’s Way through the carboniferous volcanic rocks of the Burntisland area in Fife, Scotland, and will be able to carry my experiences with me on the ancient spiritual path which unites each of the three conurbations where the Encounters are happening, the Camí de Sant Jaume (Camino Catalán).

Co-mingling of Oak and Beech

Separation and Unity

This is the artistic focus

  • in the human experience (notions of belonging and alienation, shared feeling and dislocation);
  • consideration of the other-than-human and our relationship to that realm; and in the landscape.

Documentation:

  • Impromtu performance
  • Collecting words, images, marks, and sound segments
  • Mapping.
  • Film and pamphlet on return to Edinburgh.

Collaboration with delegates during the International Encounters will take the form of walking sections of the urban camino together in each of the three locations. This ritual series of three mini pilgrimages will be a way of considering the spiritual aspect (in the widest sense of the word), and the trinity of psychogeographical outings will form a unity between the three sites for the purpose of comparing sensations, ideas and feelings. Each walk will start with an embodied exercise for individuals, a group game for unification, and prompt = one hour in each place:

  1. Girona: starts at the Catedral de Girona to Pont de L’Aguia 9pm for 40 minutes
  2. Olot: starts at Plaça Major to Pont de Sant Roc 6.30pm for 30 minutes
  3. Vic: starts at Catedral de Sant Pere de Vic to L’Atlàntida Centre des Arts (35 mins 6.30pm
Co-existence and mutual reliance

I will be making contact with women for whom this focus is pertinent, both in Scotland and Cataluña. As always I will seek Shiatsu practitioners with whom to exchange.

#walkingandrelationalgeographies @naucoclea #artdelcaminar

Walking in Solidarity

1 April 2022 First Friday Walk

This month was my idea for the Walking the Land artists collective First Friday Walk. I had been reading about ‘dynamic stillness’, a term used by geographers and complementary therapists. Also, of course, I was following the war in Ukraine. 

I wrote, ‘Let us walk in solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are walking away from their homes and home country, searching, looking for another place where they can be still, to re-find themselves and safe emplacements. We will set out from a still-point (perhaps the place where we live, where we feel secure), and search for “the embeddedness of the sensing subject”.

‘We will ask, ‘Where do we feel embedded?’ ‘Where can we find a moving or still emplacement in the walk, or in the place through, or to which, we are walking?’

Some of us walked alone and others in a group, and we were spread all over the UK.

Emplacement 1

At home

I sit in the sun and listen to the quiet, then a bee sounds by my ear and some birds chorus. When I stay myself some more, I hear the distant waves, and the odd car – one rattles, needs something doing to it. The tree has got my back. Do I feel safe here? Yes, mostly. This place is known, I’m within the boundaries of my garden, inside the gate. Gulls screech. I am grounded with my feet flat on the stones. Below them is the earth – I know that because there is a solitary primrose which has grown up through them. My sitting bones still hurt though.

On the wooden bench beside the Wheatley Elm tree

Sketching, I have a metallic taste in my mouth and frustration in my wrist as I try a third time to get the angles right. I am attempting to draw the smell of the dead brown Xmas tree which I keep meaning to take to the dump.

Dandelion heads like a bicycle wheels still spinning

1.05pm I begin my walk and am immediately struck by the fact that I am choosing to leave my home and the people of Ukraine have no choice. Yet, the dandelions are so cheery

Ominous skies and a horizontal rainbow – portents

As I walked, I thought about a story I watched last night on the Channel 4 news. A Ukrainian woman was knocked unconscious and trapped. When she came round, she dug out her husband and friend and they escaped from the bombed theatre in Mariupol. Hundreds were not so lucky. She said she felt no emotions, had no feelings. This, I know from my work, is a sign of trauma.

Doomed

In Edinburgh, I heard a woman speak on her phone as she passed me: “No time to think about such frivolous things”, she said. A child’s swing in a nearby garden squeaked as it swung.

There are no queues at the bus stop

Fallen blossom petals are strewn on the pavement. I hear a dog walker saying, “All present and correct. Have a nice day” as she leaves the park.

As I passed someone else walking her dogs, and this man repairing his boundary, I wondered if the people I am walking with in spirit had to leave their pets behind, and how long it would take them to repair their broken walls if they ever get home again

Gated for security. Will it keep out the invading forces? Protect the inhabitants from bombs?

Text 1 comes in from Richard Keating, my counterpart in Gloucestershire: “I’ve just walked a few miles from home, crossing the Nailsworth Valley and am now looking west towards May Hill. I have lived on this side of the valley for 25 years so feel very much at home here. … However the wind is cold and I’ll be glad when the pub opens its doors. Imagine how a refugee would feel as a door is opened for them. As a home is shared.”

Abandoned tank . Devastation . Clearing up the rubble

The mother said, “Grandma gave her toys to me” and her little son replied, “Do you ever see her?” And then I am aware of the importance of familial relationships, of the personal artefacts passed down, of interrupted generations and houses and possessions all lost.

Impaled

On the pavement, I am treated with courtesy and kindness as a man, wordlessly, stands aside so I can pass, and smiles. 

I heard that some Ukranian people who were only able to go to Russia, have been interned. It’s beyond my comprehension

I hear the father say “Oh you want to touch that” and he lifts the back wheels of the buggy up so that the little one can stroke the leaves of the hedge.

Emplacement 2

I am wedged between two upright logs, one on either side, and there is a solid one underneath me. I teeter – I am not as safe as I might be. I can’t see behind and would therefore only know if someone was coming if I heard them. There’s a lot of noise coming from all over the place, from different directions so I can’t distinguish if one of them is someone approaching me or not. I can reassure myself, though, because there’s not a war raging here in Scotland.

I hold on and stretch back, the sun is warm. I hear a foot meeting a ball and it clatters against the goal posts. Her heeled footsteps pace beyond the hedge. A dog barks. Distant voices, nearby cars. Smooth wood under my palms, a taste of…of…cucumber… and cedar. Is that a taste or a smell? There is a breeze. Cold at my nostrils, of air, perhaps exhaust fumes, a hint of the warm wood. I have been worried that I’m losing my sense of smell, but maybe it’s OK.

Emplacement 3

I receive a second message from Richard: “We’ve made our first stillness and are moving on. Your script has been well used.”

Warmer, wider and flatter under my bottom, I have lots of space on this tree stump. My lower back tilts which relieves the pain. I am facing north now, but I have the same awareness of people perhaps coming from behind. Cars wheel beyond the hedge which doesn’t seem dangerous because, to my knowledge, one has never driven through it into the park. Then I realise danger can come from above and see that the tree top obviously fell down, though presumably in the recent storm and not on a day like this…

Blasted tree

I can smell the sun on my skin and when I touch it, it is warm. I put my warm hand to my cold nose. The wind is coming towards me here bringing…. what? Ice from the Arctic? Again, my feet are off the ground and it strikes me that this is less safe as it would take me longer to put them down and run away. Footsteps behind me; I know they are male. They come up, go past, without stopping. The taste (yawn) is of old apple. Mhmm. And some metal.

Moving on, I thank the man who has painted the pavilion a gleaming privet-green. He’s busy clearing a thin layer of turf from around the perimeter. We chat about the public toilets they installed late in lockdown and then took away again because someone had to watch them all the time due to the vandalism. He said that there is already “a Ladies and Gentleman’s Cloakroom” in the building, so all they needed to do was to make it accessible for people with disabilities and then there would be a permanent facility. I said, no-one ever asks the people on the ground who know.

A spent shell?

Emplacement 4

I am amongst insistent birds, beside the ever-running Water of Leith, on a hard log. The brambles are intrusive. Or maybe I am. I smell humus and rotting plants, someone smoking weed. I taste coffee (a mid walk treat), and there’s the touch of cool, smooth, dry bark on this knarled trunk.

People walk right past but don’t see me – I’m by the Rocheid Path but off the beaten track. The car sound pollution is distant. The rambling couples always come back in the other direction after a few minutes because it’s a dead end.

I try to sketch the detail of the log

I wonder, will Putin withdraw, or are they just regrouping for a heavier bombardment? It sounds like he’s out of rubles but… . I am obviously carrying the story with me as I walk, snippets of it anyway. 

Tickling leaves at my neck, ants (maybe) under my thigh.

I see drops of ‘blood’ everywhere 

My scarf is getting ruined, snagging on the thorns – as if that’s a big deal, in the circumstances. When I try to wind it around my neck again later, I am scratched because portions of blackberry branches are still stuck in it. Invisibly.

I ask myself, how can I maintain awareness of these horrifying occurrences and still live comfortably here, and Richard suggests that we could focus on better understanding “this connectivity between us all”, and I know that this is what these walks are about. I’ll share the walk, invite a response, and celebrate others’.

At 15.35 I am tired and I wonder if the Gloucester lot are having tea. I try to imagine where they are and what they are doing, without the aid of a newsflash or twitter feed.

I start on my return home with the scent of wild garlic in my nostrils.

Shattered
Double graves
Trapped
Impaled
Clinging on

I pick off an individual leaf of lavender and squeeze it between thumb and finger tip. I inhale for the pleasure and calm.

Sending our best wishes to the people of Ukraine, that they might find safe and still places to become embedded once more
Finding Refuge, Looking for Shelter by Lucy Guenot

In Walking the Land, we connect with each other via computers and phones. You can imagine these ‘meetings’ as emplacements, still places in which we innovate, stabilise and share our ideas. Then, see how we move out into the landscape on our walks, dynamically. If we stay in touch with each other as we walk, using What’sApp maybe, or even tweeting with a hashtag #, we remain in contact via a collective still-point while we move at the same time. If we post on social media after the walk, representing the body movement in ‘stills’ and fixed words, there is a further version of this ‘dynamic stillness’.

If you have work to share in response to this walking prompt, please send it to tamsinlgrainger@gmail.com 

#walkingtheland @walkingartists1