As the Glasgow Wildlife Garden Festival approaches its third weekend, guest blogger Deirdre Heddon explains a bit more about her participation in the festival, through the Walking Library.
The Walking Library is a creative research project initiated by Dee Heddon & Misha Myers in 2012. In its simplest conception, The Walking Library is a library filled with books, each one suggested as ‘good to take on a walk’. The Walking Library follows in the historical footsteps of those eighteenth-century poets and writers such as William Wordsworth and John Muir who would travel great distances by foot but always in the company of books, selected carefully to provide companionship.
The Walking Library for a Wild City is the ninth edition of the project. Each edition asks a specific question: what book would you take on this walk? And then it gathers up those books and walks with them.
For The Walking Library for a Wild City, commissioned by Glasgow 2018, we asked: ‘What book reveals wildness in the city?’ and ‘What book would you rewild by walking?’ By the date of the first walk, the 13th May, we had received more than 50 suggestions.
We were delighted that our first walk of this new Library was a collaboration with the RSPB, as part of their Garden Festival. Titled “a walk to arcadia: a biblioblitz from the Barras”, we borrowed and adapted the RSPB’s popular observing and recording activity, the BioBlitz. A BioBlitz involves identifying all living things in an area within a set period of time. For our walk we brought together the bio with the biblio (from the Greek, biblion, meaning book) in a biblioblitz. Carrying recommended books with us as we walked from the Barrowlands to Arcadia Street and back, we used them to help us ‘rewild’ our city, seeing anew the nature and wildness all around us, from the weeds in the pavements to the nests in the trees.
At the start of the walk, we invited those who had joined us to select a book from our Walking Library, one that they would like to carry with them. We then invited them to stop and share something from their walked book wherever they felt a resonance between the book’s content and our environment. Keen to remap the city according to the wildness we found, we also invited people to point out any wilderness encountered en route and rename the streets (‘Bees Brow’ and ‘Dandelion Daunder’). Our collaborator, the artist Alec Finlay, who walked with us, would take use these observations to make new, wilder maps of Glasgow.
We were lucky for this walk. The sun shone on us. Books we carried and shared included Field Notes from a Hidden City: Urban Nature Diary, by Esther Woolfson, Wild Plants of Glasgow, by J. H. Dickson, The Public Life of the Street Pigeon, by Eric Simms, Dead Cities, by Mike Davis and Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. We saw wild flowers (‘weeds’) taking over numerous derelict buildings, oblivious to concrete and masonry; we imagined the post-apocalyptic city alongside a wilder, more open shared commons; we learnt of the use of pigeons during the war (unwitting conscripts); we thought about land managed as ‘wild space’ for the pollinators; we talked of the heavily polluted Clyde, now home to otters and fish; we wondered what sort of future we could imagine for this dear green city, home to the Glasgow Garden Festival 30 years ago. What sort of Garden City might it be 30 years from now? Walking, reading, talking, imagining…
Our next walk offers another Biblioblitz, this one starting at the site of the original Glasgow Garden Festival (Festival Park): 26 May, 11-12.30
Walks are free but booking is recommended:
For more information on wild city, visit our blog:
Photographs by Kate McAllan
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