Some journeys are fun in the dark

20150620_234208Welcome to another blog post by Matthew Mckenzie a Carer from the London borough of Lewisham. For this blog post, I want to write about a fun event I attended. This event was a walk, which took place on the 20th of June starting late at night till the 21st on sunday morning. The event was a fun filled, healthy and educational.

This walk I took part in was called the Largactyl Midnight Summer Solastice walk, which usually lasts around 5 hours. This walk was held by Cooltan Arts. Cooltan Arts is an Arts and Mental Health Charity based in London and they have been doing walks around the city for around 6 or 7 years. The walks are free to join, but donations are welcome.

As stated before, CoolTan Arts is an award winning arts in mental health charity run by and for adults with mental distress. They feel that mental wellbeing that is helped through the use of creativity, which I certainly agree is helpful for those who may often lack the confidence, energy and ability to cope each day.

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Unfortunately I have been so busy that I have not attended quite a few Cooltan walks as I would have liked, however Cooltan Arts do numerous themed walks quite often and its worth checking out their site to see their latest projects.

CoolTan Arts – Arts and Mental Health Charity, London

Going back to the walk, I usually try and summarise walks or events, but I think this time. I want to blog on my reflection about the walk.  Too be honest attending the walk made me feel a part of something and those who help guide on the walks are always friendly and helpful.

Being a part of something be it a group, event or even a movement can help others feel they belong.  I have admired Cooltan Arts because they promote wellbeing in a productive way, however they do point out the problems which disadvantage people face and we must not be blind to those less fortunate than ourselves, even if they remain hidden.

Turning up at the walk was exciting, because the walk took place at around 11:30 pm.  As I turned up, I could feel the excitement of fellow walkers and travellers wondering what adventures we would get into on our travels.

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I could remember the music from one of the devices held by a cooltan guided walker and how everyone was chatting and meeting new people. It was not too long to wait till the CEO of Cooltan Arts Michelle Barrier appeared and talked to the crowd about the walk and the history of Cooltan.

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Michelle greeted quite a few walkers and I have always found her friendly and approachable.   At the beginning of the walk, all travellers and walkers were given a form so they could check if we were able to do the walk without risking our health.

The walk started outside the Tate Modern building, which seemed quite appropriate since it is there to promote art.  We then eventually set off on our journey through the London Borough of Southwark.

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London looks so different at night.  You would have thought that it would be crowded and noisy, but on that Saturday night, it seemed quite peaceful.  The lights of London certainly set the atmosphere for an amazing journey.

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Usually London can get me down because I often think of it as a working city. Every day there is pressure to do something and make something of ourselves. We often work hard to make a living and try to keep up with others, but it is so important to stop and really experience London by taking time out to walk around the city.  If you love London, its worth it to take the time to explore such an amazing city.

After a short walk, many of the walkers headed down near the banks of the river to light a candle and symbolise in getting rid of anything negative in their lives. I watched the Cooltan guided walkers guide those who took part in this event safely around the river.

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I did not take part in this section myself and there was no pressure for me to do so.  I felt it would be nice to watch and reflect on how others achieved this part of the walk.

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It certainly felt great to see the many famous buildings of London at night, It felt great to be part of the city and I felt at ease in being a Londoner, without having to be rushed off my feet in having to do something.  I could feel the energy of the city calling me to explore many more parts of Southwark.

Eventually we stopped under the “Millennium bridge” to listen to Poet laureate Peter Cox.  The walkers listened to a poem from Peter to inspire and educate us through our Journey.  Usually I would rush to note down what Peter says, but this time I just wanted to experience the words of his Poem.  I did found this a little difficult because there was so much to notice around the city.

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Poet laureate Peter Cox

After an inspiration poem from Peter, we continued our walk past the Shakespeare Globe and stopped to what plays are going to take place. I have often liked some of Shakespeare’s plays and tend to listen to A midnight’s summers dream.  It almost felt like a dream through this walk as I observed many lovely characters on this journey.

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Every so often I would feel compelled to capture the moment of the walk.  Not only for myself but for others, because I like to share my experiences.  I really hope some reading this blog would take time out and wander through the city of London to explore its old and new buildings.

As we continued our journey, I felt fortunate enough that it was not raining as there was a heavy downpour of rain earlier that day.  I wondered how many got drenched during the anti-austerity march that took place earlier that day.  I wanted to attend the march myself since I feel strongly that many vulnerable people suffer due to such measures.  I heard that a guided walker also attended the march that day and had the energy to guide this walk, which I thought was very admirable.

We continued onwards to Clink Prison where a guided walked talked to the fellow walkers about the history of the Prison.  The prison was not open at the time, but the story about the Prison certainly inspired a few to attend the prison when it opened.

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We then continued down through to Winchester Palace where we heard about this history of the Palace and the story of the Winchester Geese, which were the women having to work the streets London around the Medieval period.

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The fellow travellers marvelled at the old Palace and looked around the old building, I am sure a few walkers were wondering what it must have been like living in such a period.

It was not long before we headed over to disused burial ground where many of the Winchester geese were buried.  The area is known as Redcross way and as a cooltan guided walker told us about the history of the graveyard, we could see ribbons tied to the gates.

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As we continued on, we stopped outside another Church, which is St George the Martyr Church.  We heard from Michelle Barrier and other Cooltan volunteers about famous writers who got inspiration from walking at night, these include Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, William Wordsworth and many more.

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I noticed many of the walkers listened intently and some even took part in explaining the history of famous writers.  One of the things that has inspired me about Cooltan is that people who attend the walks can actually take part in some of the activities.

After walking for another hour and hearing more tales, talks and learning about the city.  We eventually took a rest at Cooltan Arts HQ.  This is where many of the travellers rested their weary legs and also ate a late night meal provided by the “Breakfast Club”.

As usual Cooltan Arts have an impressive display of creations, projects and mental health awareness promotions set up around its base.  I took some time to look around the rooms.

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After resting for a while, some travellers and walkers headed off as there was no pressure for them to continue on till the morning.  The rest of the walkers continued on the guided journey as we headed to Burgess Park to take part in some early morning Yoga.

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I could feel my body being invigorated by taking part in the Yoga exercise.  I felt alive and happy to be part of the group and eventually I got chatting to new friends who took part in the walk.

We then stopped at another park where we heard from more guided walkers on the bench provided by the residents of Southwark.  The bench was created by artist Rossen Daskalov and symbolises the theme of connecting to others, which can be easily lost in today’s society as it can be so easy to be distant from one another.

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I took the time to sit on the bench and look at thecGinkgo Tree planted by CoolTan Arts to commemorate World Mental Health Day.  Eventually at the end of the walk we stopped at Maudsley Hospital to celebrate not only the journey, but also to celebrate mental wellbeing.

If you want to see how the walk went.  Please enjoy the video showing the Cooltan Arts walk, which was produced by Cooltan Arts.

Until next time, have fun on your Journey.

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