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The Start of Something: Dog Walking for Talking

Dog Walking for Talking was held on Saturday 16th December 2017 by artist and academic Ang Bartram. Her interest is in connecting to artists and other individuals living locally and through informal conversation held during the action of dog walking and creating a convivial atmosphere, opening up opportunities for future collaboration and development.

Dog walking is often a solitary experience, a time to be alone with one’s fur-coated companion in the park or when treading the pavements. It provides a chance to find clarity, composure and calm, and a space to think and connect with oneself, with nature and our chosen pet dog. Yet the experience additionally presents opportunities for connection with others, those who may equally be enjoying the same activity, or who may just like animals, interactions that would otherwise perhaps not take place. An open hand offered to a stranger in greeting is a familiar and acknowledged expression of warmth and conviviality, and dogs are often the recipients of such a tender and friendly gesture. For many it is difficult to resist a dog’s approach for affection, and the experience allows for pleasantries and informality between people. For a wet canine nose and wagging tail invites the welcoming touch of a stranger’s hand, and this contact initiates conversation with the humans present. The experience connects more than just human and canine strangers, as it allows people to meet and talk who may not otherwise have had the opportunity.

This novel approach encouraged three individuals – variously from Lincolnshire, Loughborough to Nottingham – and their dogs to join Ang on the cold pre-Christmas day and talk about dog-specific activities that they could do together in the future. These include a dog/human life drawing session and meeting regularly for dog walks, to continue the conversation, which they intend to extend it to other areas in the locality.

The group felt that connecting around a common interest in dogs worked very well, making the individual members of the group immediately very familiar with each other and involving in the conversation other people who were also walking their dogs at that time. It is intended that after an initial session the focus group will become established for the generation of further activities.

Of the experience, one participant said: “Thanks for our talk and short walk and dog meet yesterday it was lovely to meet you and new people and of course all the furry folk. Making connections is good. However I can’t believe given all our mutual people we’ve never met before, but hey we have now. I would be happy to support a drawing from life – dogs and people day if you’re up for it. And of course you’re welcome to visit the farm and see all our animal crew here. I’ve been for years trying to communicate in the work I make, the care we offer others and animals and how that leads to better self care. But this is for another conversation. I took this photo off the bank of you all yesterday as I left. I watched the dogs run and it made me smile.”

 

All images are courtesy of the artist.

 

Dog Walking for Talking was proposed to CVAN EM’s The Start of Something project, which, through conversation, sought to bring people in the East Midlands together to explore a common goal, share experience and work collaboratively, ultimately to make things happen. CVAN EM supported proposals from groups based in the region, that it considered would benefit the widest community and make the greatest difference within the region.

Find out more about The Start of Something and the conversations that we supported.