TONY: Right, I think this is recording.
TERRY: Here we are
GLENISE: At the start of our walk in Badocks wood.
PAUL So here we are at – what's this place called?
JOHN: No 1 the Harbour Side.
SHARON: OK, so today's walk is going to be around the Bristol docks.
(Heddon, 2015: 179)
In this chapter, we are concerned with the contribution of arts-based approaches to support participation in service of a fairer society. As illustration, we offer an account of the project ‘Walking Interconnections: Researching the Lived Experience of Disabled People for a Sustainable Society’ and the interventions that the project and its outcomes have staged not only in environmental discourse and debate about inclusive public space, but also in representations of walking practices. We start by describing and contextualising Walking Interconnections, before going on to consider the arts-based approaches used within the project and the research findings they enabled.
Walking Interconnections brought together disabled people and sustainability practitioners to share walking encounters in public places. Through mapping, talking, walking and reflecting together they entered each other's life-worlds. Their experiences are caught in photographs, maps and Going for a Walk, a verbatim play crafted by Deirdre Heddon from the recorded conversations of the walkers. Throughout the chapter, we include co-researchers’ voices using excerpts from Going for a Walk.
The Walking Interconnections project
‘Walking Interconnections: Researching the Lived Experience of Disabled People for a Sustainable Society’ was a two-year-long interdisciplinary research project funded by the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), as part of their research theme ‘Connected Communities’. It responded to the demonstrable lack of connection between disability and environmental movements (Imrie and Thomas, 2008; Abbott and Porter, 2013). More pointedly, it was motivated by the marginalisation of disabled people within and by environmentalist discourse. Such discourse most often presumes, figures and thus reiterates a normative, undifferentiated and ablebodied subject. Sarah Ray's insightful identification of a ‘corporeal unconscious’ within USA environmental thought (Ray, 2009: 261) has resonance in our location of writing, Britain. Walking Interconnections set out to explore disabled people's everyday practices of resilience.
As suggested by the project's title, a key method of research used in Walking Interconnections was walking.