In late 2007 a small group of artists called a meeting inviting ‘all those who are interested in walking as a critical spatial practice’ to the inaugral meeting of the walking artists network. Inspired in part by our emerging awareness of other walking artists, and their diverse trajectories to walking as an art practice from backgrounds including music/sonic arts, graphic design, sculpture, painting, theatre, film and dance, the aims of the meeting were:
- to connect with others who defined themselves as walking artists – or who were interested in the idea of walking as a mode of art practice;
- to share examples of our practices, and the practices that inspired us;
- to ask how we might define walking art as a medium, and whether attempting a definition would be a fruitful method for generating discussion and debate;
- To find a volunteer/volunteers to instigate, organise and host the next meeting.
Around 20 people attended the meeting in January 2008 (held at London Metropolitan University) chaired by Ben Roberts (Camden Arts Centre) and including presentations by walkwalkwalk, Melissa Bliss, Viv Corringham and Clive A Brandon (the founder members). Attendees included postgraduate students, artists, musicians, writers and urban planners. The meeting format was effective, and the discussion fruitful, however the goal of finding a volunteer to instigate the next meeting was not met.
Since then walking has continued to emerge and evolve as an art practice, and medium, that is used across the visual and performing arts. Conferences, symposia and other events that touch upon walking as a mode of art practice have brought walking artists and researchers together and continued to highlight the diverse practices, forms and methodologies that might be defined as walking art. New publications too have appeared that work to develop and extend this discourse. However it seems that the research questions behind the first meeting of the network still have validity and that the modes of discussion engendered by a sustained network, rather than a one-off event, afford the best potential to achieve this.
In 2010 an AHRC research networks bid was begun to assist with the revival of the walking artists network. It proposed to operate through an open call for participants from both academia and practice – with a distinct aim to draw together practitioners/researchers from the performing and visual arts.
Awarded funding in August 2011 the AHRC funding supports the development of the WAN website, along with a series of meetings. The first of these was an open event held alongside the Sideways festival of walking in Belgium in September 2012, the second was a smaller and more focussed meeting of the research group attached to the project, entitled ‘Footwork’ it took place in June 2013 in London. in 2014, a ‘Footwork’ meeting took place at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales. The fourth Footwork meeting took place in Cornwall, leading up to the Where To? Steps Towards the Future of Walking Arts Conference at Falmouth University.