WALKING LIBRARY: SIDEWAYS FESTIVAL 2012, BELGIUM
In 1794, John Hucks and Coleridge walked to North Wales. Hucks carried with him the poems of Thomas Churchyard.
In 1802, Coleridge walked through Cumberland, carrying with him ‘a shirt, a cravat, two pairs of stockings, tea, sugar, pens and paper, his night-cap, and a book of German poetry wrapped in green oilskin.’ He apparently read the Book of Revelations in Buttermere.
In 1818, Keats travelled the Lake District and up to Scotland with his friend Charles Brown. Keats’ carried Dante’s Divine Comedy, Brown the works of Milton.
In 1867, on a thousand mile walk to the gulf, John Muir carried a copy of Robert Burns’ poetry, Milton’s Paradise Lost, William Wood’s Botany, and a small New Testament.
In 2012 Dee Heddon and Misha Myers walked across Belgium, carrying Charles Dickens’ Night Walks (1861), Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost (2006), and Kathleen Jamie’s Findings (2005)…
Whilst much has been written about walking, including about walking and writing, the history of walking as a cultural practice also reveals the carrying of reading materials by walkers as commonplace, at least from the Romantic period onwards. Repeated references to books taken on walks prompts one to wonder whether books are carried today or, relatedly, what books would be good to take on a walk? We decided to pose this question in order to gather suggestions for books to accompany our 334 km walk across Belgium, travelling from the west to the east, as part of the Sideways Festival that took place from August 17 to September 17, 2012.
Sideways was an itinerant art festival aimed to connect ecology and culture through using a network of underused, and in places, disappeared footpaths that offer alternatives to Belgium’s dense and expanding road networks.
Creating a Walking Library for the Sideways festival, we purchased about 90 recommended titles, an amount that fitted both our budget and the four rucksacks that were literally taken on a walk across Belgium, carried by four volunteer librarians at a time.