You don’t come to watch Walking Stories: you live it, breathe it, build and dismantle it. Supplied with an mp3 player and headphones, this audio walk for parks gives you a completely immersive experience that removes you from the clutter of everyday life. Below Penelope interviews choreographer Charlotte Spencer.

For us at Fox & Squirrel walking has to do with exploration. What does walking signify for you?

So many different things! A space for thinking. A great way to have important conversations. A way to move through a landscape at a pace that we humans can get our heads around – cars and planes are too fast to take it all in!

What was your inspiration for Walking Stories?

After a collection of artistic residencies across Europe in Summer 2011, I was in Grenoble and had a spare day before I left. I walked from the city out into the mountains. During that walk I realised how useful I found walking as a way of thinking. It made me curious to create a work that took it’s audience for a walk. It also made me interested to experiment with making a choreographic work through the process of being on a physical journey rather than in a studio.

This intention was jumbled up with a delight in treasure hunts, an audio walk in the New Forest made by Tom Spencer (my brother and longtime sound collaborator), a desire to blur the edges between performance, performer, spectator, stage and life, and a determination to make a work that was portable, tourable, and economically viable (dance pieces in theatres with lots of performers are very challenging and expensive to tour!) These were the departure points for Walking Stories: a group audio walk for parks.

What should the audience expect from the experience?

The walk quietly calls us into the present moment with our bodies and our actions – we do not sit and spectate; we do it. Old people, young children, teenagers from all walks of life come and somehow it is relevant for them all. It is an opportunity to slow down and to watch, to play and to run, to wander and get lost; to make intricate choices in time and space – to choreograph. I think it allows you a little breathing time and space outside of your usual busyness. I hope it brings you closer to the places you travel through. I wonder if it changes your thoughts or experience of yourself.

How long did it take you to complete the work?

We had a short research period in 2012 where we made a draft version to test out to see if the idea would work. After that there was a flurry of activity to get the funding to make it happen. The actual making period was about 3 very intensive months, of not much sleep and lots of crawling around a long sheet of paper with all the scripts stuck to it calling out time codes to the sound artists at 3am!

I consider the beat of a city almost like a choreographer as it dictates the way we walk. In the morning, during rush hour, we have a spring in our step, by the evening we are dragging our feet. In your view what beats do London Parks produce?

All the beats. The slow meandering ones for those seeking reprise from the city; the energetic runners and football players; the children whizzing and playing; the commuters hurtling through on their bikes. Public parks invite us all into their spaces regardless of age or background. It brings all our beats together. I think Walking Stories, slows the beat down a bit.

Do you think technology i.e.: smart phones etc has limited our ability to hear our city?


Most important thing you’ve noticed while walking in London?

The fascination of small details. How many trees there are in London.

Good walking tip (walking shoes not allowed)?

The opportunity it offers for thinking and clearing the mind.

Some synonyms of the verb to walk: to stroll, to wander, to potter, to totter…?

saunter, dawdle, stomp, stride, march, plod

Dance Umbrella takes place 15-31st October. Walking Stories |Waterlow will be taking place on WED 28 – SAT 31 OCT