Conceived during residencies in 2 schools, Tasmania Australia and Toronto Canada, where 11 year olds shared very similar concerns about their lack of autonomy. The Walking Neighbourhood responds to the rising hysteria around children in public space and their safety. Intrigued by tall tales about encounters with adults in cars trying to pick up children (it was someone’s mum offering a known kid a lift home!) and rather than fire drills schools enforce lockdowns to respond to gun violence in schools, Lenine Bourke and Darren O’Donnell of Mammalian Diving Reflex in Toronto, Canada began a series of conversations that led to a number of creative explorations on the theme with both artists developing two stand alone works.
In Brisbane a research project was commissioned alongside a creative development work with 8 children talking about their thoughts and ideas about neighbours, strangers and community. The project was then called 600 000 years based on an UK statistic that asserted a child would need to stand on the side of the road for 600 000 years before they were kidnapped. The project was fast building momentum, engaging children, parents and researchers. It was at this stage in the journey where it was decided that this name was potentially alienating, as children through it was about dinosaurs and alarming for parents – the two very things we did not want to be – and the project came to be know as The Walking Neighbourhood.
In Brisbane, Lenine had become the Artistic Director of Contact and joined forces with Dr Louise Phillips from the University of Queensland to form a solid research partnership. As an academic committed to the study of children’s’ civic participation through arts based pedagogy, Louise and her colleague Dr Andrew Hickey from the University of Queensland joined the project team and conducted in depth research alongside both the Brisbane and Chiang Mai Thailand iterations of The Walking Neighbourhood.
Premiering in Brisbane in August 2012 The Walking Neighbourhood involved 12 diverse, interesting and energetic kids leading walks around Fortitude Valley in Brisbane. The project toured in 2013 to Thailand exploring the old city of Chiang Mai and then to the Aboriginal community of Bagot in Darwin engaging local children and workers in each project as part of the Darwin Festival.
In each of these processes children walked, took photos, mapped, observed, danced and skipped their way around the neighbourhood whilst interviewing local people, shop keepers, community members, icons and identifying places of neighbourhood significance and notoriety. The Bagot project utilised GPS technology through a connection with the City of Darwin and in Thailand the children created a gallery of found items and self-portraits supported by DFAT.
The Walking Neighbourhood phenomenon continues to grow with interest in the project from all areas of Australia and the globe.
The Walking Neighbourhood was created by Lenine Bourke in collaboration with various partners. The Early stage of the work was created with Mammalian Diving Reflex (Canada), then more recently Contact Inc (Australia). Lenine also wishes to acknowledge the following partners: DFAT, GABFAI, Darwin Festival, Bagot Community, University of Queensland and the Queensland University of Technology, Australia Council for the Arts and Arts Queensland.