Creative walking to enrich people’s lives

We are collaborating with artist Alec Finlay to help more people connect with their local environment to improve their physical and mental well-being.

Photo Credit: Sam MacDiarmid. Photo Picture: Dementia Friendly Prestwick.

The yearlong residency will see Alec working with a selection of Paths for All’s network of over 600 Health Walking groups across Scotland.

These short walks are aimed at people living with long term health conditions who would benefit from being more active to improve their health, wellbeing and confidence.    

Spending time outdoors in the fresh air, in company, is a great mood booster. People living with poor physical and mental health often lack the confidence to go outdoors by themselves. Volunteer led walks an ideal way to explore a small part of their neighbourhood. Short walks needn’t be boring walks. Working with Alec will introduce a new, creative dimension to the short walk experience. 

Frances Bain, Walking for Health Manager with Paths for All is enthusiastic about the collaboration, she said:

Attitudes to and perceptions of our environment can be transformed when we spend time outdoors. Working with Alec, as our first dedicated artist in residence, will offer walkers new activities to develop a deeper connection with and, appreciation of their local environment.
Having an artist in residence adds a creative element to our work helping people to live more enriched lives by having new ideas to think about and new activities to engage with. 

Offering creative opportunities for people who face physical disabilities, social isolation, and lack of confidence will help them realise that short walks can be beneficial and meaningful. This will encourage inactive people to value a short walk.

Alec has met with several walking groups on their weekly Health Walk to discuss what they would like to do.  He will then consider what activities they might like to engage with to develop more awareness of the places that they walk through.  Activities will include exploring the meaning of place names, writing poetry, creating bird nest boxes, inscribing walking sticks and designing maps. 

Alec Finlay is enjoying the wide variety of walking groups across Scotland with no one group the same due to the personalities, experience and confidence of the walkers. He said:

Often it is difficult to engage with communities as an artist. Paths for All have a wide network of community groups who go outdoors on short, slow walks. This makes them ideally suited for placemaking activities, for example, interpreting place names and thinking about how they might have been used in the past helps people to learn about the history of where they are walking.

“I look for what people enjoy on walks. I take time to notice what enthuses the group. I ask, “What do you see on your walk?” and use this as the basis for ideas. I fit in with the rhythms of the group. I give them a few proposals and see what works. I let the individual personality of groups shine through as they are all completely unique.” 

For more information on Creative Walking with Paths for All visit our web page

For more information on Alec Finlay's work visit his web page.

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