Walking piece details
On 23rd July 2022, Bristol Steppin Sistas and University of Bristol team members walked through Clifton Downs at midnight. This group of 17 women – primarily women of colour – walked a significant area for histories of gender, sexuality and race in the city. While women are largely debarred from walking at night, we took a route that is historically associated with sex-work, and so were connected to a lineage of night-walking women.
Clifton Downs is also contested land in terms of local history – owned by Bristolians according to an Act of 1861 but also by the Society for Merchant Venturers, an organisation central to Bristol’s role is the slave trade. Its occupation by women of colour was therefore a politically significant act.
Through walking this fractured space, we reclaimed it. Walking at night – at the witching hour – meant that we confronted the exclusions which obstruct our free movement as pedestrians through the world, as the interviews with women on the soundscape make clear. For many, this was both a triggering and/or cathartic experience. At times, stories tumbled from us which we would prefer not to have to live with and not to have to tell.
The soundscape is intended to be a transparent, albeit edited, record of the event, and at points the sound quality suffers a little because of rain. At 10.54, incidentally, you can hear, very faintly, the sound of a car horn, and then a man shouting at 10.56. While we were largely left alone during our walk, it is interesting that our unusual act could not be left completely free of comment and disruption. Whether the beep was one of criticism or solidarity we will never know.
To join us on the circular route, please start at the Downs Cafe on Stoke Road in Bristol, and walk down Ladies Mile. Turn right into the woods towards the Circular Road, and walk it towards Sea Mills, and round past Rockleaze and Downlease. Turn right onto Stoke Road and walk back to the starting point, the Downs Cafe.
We hope that you enjoy the sound of women collectively walking by night.