Community Legacy Walks – celebrating the Olympic and Paralympic Games
During 2012 CoolTan Arts ran a series of accessible Community Legacy walks in the run up to, and during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, in partnership with Centre for Better Health and Hackney Museum.
The Community Legacy Walks, run by and for people with mental distress, celebrated the legacy of the 2012 games throughout the host boroughs of Hackney and Newham, allowing local people to re-discover their local area, re-claim green spaces, and share stories old and new. We uncovered the hidden history, art, and culture of the area.
CoolTan Arts was awarded a Transformers grant, funded by the National Lottery, through the Olympic Lottery Distributor, and managed by the East London Business Alliance.
A review of the Community Legacy Walk on 29th May 2012 by Tehseen Noorani
Walking is always good for talking. Being rhythmic, it sparks off ideas and makes space for shared thoughts to sit ‘in the air’.
On Tuesday, 8 to 10 of us met outside Hackney Museum on a gloriously sunny May afternoon, to get to know the area and each other. We embarked on a potted tour of Hackney and Hackney Wick, guided by local residents. Along the way, we stopped when people had stories about particular buildings, from old churches and psychiatric hospitals, to bridge sculptures and snazzy new Olympic venues.
We had lunch in the grounds of Homerton hospital, a grassy area set aside from the main road, with benches and trees to prop up against. Someone explained that Homerton is to be the official Olympics hospital but claims it will not require additional resources for this! So we saluted the building good luck and continued along back streets to the canalside. Bright wild flowers lined the paths. The canal was serene (though not enough for a dip), and we walked by its side for a while, identifying what could and could not be foraged amongst the summer blooms.
Turning back into the town, one memorable sight for me was the original Hackney Hospital (1750-1995), a grand building, with distinctive red brick arches lining the tops of the large windows. Originally a workhouse, someone said that it was here that the first Patients’ Union, of hospital patients demanding their rights, emerged in the 1970s. With the building soon to be restored by the local mental health trust, I found myself wondering about its multiple personalities over the years, as a site for incarceration, liberation, coercion and resistance all in one.
One of the last places we came to was Victoria Park. Someone explained that this was an arboretum for explorers of the British Empire, bringing back seeds and saplings from their travels. According to someone else, the park used to be a rallying point for political activists of all persuasions, much like the more well-known Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. A meandering stroll through the park ended with drinks in an adjacent pub.
I was struck by how the conversations I had had during the day had different paces, much like walking itself. It was easy to slip between walking and talking paces – to walk fast and talk slow or to talk fast and walk slow, to talk all the time, to simply walk, together yet in silence. It made for a relaxing and inclusive way to discover new places and hear good stories. With others in the group, I talked about artistic practices involving older persons, photography and disability rights, an up-and-coming disability theatre company, cool ways of getting married and even aspects of organizing fashion shows. In the end, we walked and talked for five hours on the Community Legacy Walk, a fantastic way to spend the day.