Sunday, 28 January 2018

The Women Artists of the North East Library invites…The Walking Library for Women Walking

The Walking Library is an ongoing art project created by Misha Myers and Dee Heddon, that seeks to bring together walking and books – walking, reading, reflecting, writing… Each Walking Library they create responds to – is specific to – the context of its walking. Each walk changes the shape – the content and the actions – of the library.

Using The Walking Library as a catalyst for The Women Artists of the North East Library, we took a selection of books on a walk around Newcastle.

We each had to choose a book from either the Walking Library or The Women Artists of the North East Library, and carry this with us as we walked round Newcastle. The books on offer in the libraries were varied, ranging from art books, fiction, poetry, books on walking, books about weather to feminist texts.

The book I chose was A field Guide to getting lost by Rebecca Solnit. I had not read it before.

We set off from The Northern Charter and were told that we would go on a stroll during which we would be looking out for women and stopping at places that people felt were appropriate to share a reading from their chosen text. As many of us had never read our chosen books, we were encouraged to flick through the books as we walked (at the same time as remaining alert to passing traffic and avoiding injury!).

Holly Argent lead the walk, having prepared a route with various points of interest in relation to women in the city. For example, we stopped at Ellison Place where Ethal Bentham once lived. Ethal was the first woman doctor and the first woman to drive a car.

I was amazed by how easy it was to find a relevant passage of text from the unfamiliar books as we walked through the city.

Our route included

- The Golden woman on the jewellers at the top of Pilgrim Street

- A stop outside Fenwick's where the upstairs cafe was said to be a personal favourite of Ethal Bentham's and the first place where women could meet together to chat and enjoy tea. We also found out that the powder rooms in the toilets are a sight to admire!

- Some benches on Northumberland Street that had seahorse decorations (one of the group was carrying a book with a seahorse on the front cover)

- A plaque commemorating the release of Kathleen Brown, one of the sufragettes

- St John's Church where Christina Umfred (Anchoress) lived

- The Beehive pub, where we were watched by a crowd of men inside

- Bigg Market

and finally The Lit and Phil Library

Over the duration of the walk we shared extracts from nearly all of the books, and it was a good way to discover things to read that you may not otherwise have discovered.

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