Curious and excited, I went down to get a first hand experience and give you the low down. Some of you might have seen me tweet about their successful crowd funding campaign. I believe you can still pledge if you so wish.
Coming out of Vauxhall tube station, take the exit to Nine Elms and walk down by the riverside. You will nearly immediately see a giant shoe box in the distance! The sticker, see here below, confirms it!
As a designer, I immediately wanted to know how this shoe box came about. It’s a shipping container! Then simply cladded both inside out. All brilliantly executed by the people at Brighten The Corners.
The inside was too dark to photograph so I picked out details. I have it confirmed that there’s lighting now…
Some poignant and potent quotations adorned the walls.
It’s very cosy inside. Carpet on the floor, lovely leather chairs. There’s also a small seating area where you can put on headphones and listen to some stories.
And now to the actual experience. Part audio-portrait, part shoe-shop, a Mile in my Shoes was created in collaboration with the people that live and work on the banks of the Thames.
Meet Maame, who was looking after me on the day I went. A volunteer, she makes sure you get measured and fitted with some shoes.
The shoe boxes are housed in this wonderful shelf system made out of corrugated card. You don’t have to ask for your exact shoe size. In fact, I opted to walk in mens shoes. I wanted to make my walk even more meaningful by walking in far too big shoes which (for me) made me even more mindful and enhanced the overall experience.
These shoes below are the ones I walked in. The shoe box will tell you the name and size of who these shoes belong to. Mine belonged to Gary Mansfield. That’s all you know at that moment. You’re then handed some earphones and a shuffle iPod. Off I went walking down the riverside, immersing myself in Gary’s story and world. I need to comment on the superb quality of the audio. The stories were collected in association with In the Dark radio, who did a superb job.
Here below is my friend Dana who opted to immerse herself into the world of Gary Pattison, a sewer flusher, by wearing his whole outfit while listening to his story.
When you’re done and firmly back in your own shoes, the team will take a polaroid of you and ask you to fill in the visitors book. They are keen to record people’s experiences and I believe that’s a big part of this interactive project.
I welled up listening to Gary’s story, a former criminal who discovered art and subsequently managed to turn around his life. This is exactly the point of the Empathy Museum. Where else would we stop and listen to someone who may be a little out of our comfort zone, a former criminal who we might otherwise pre-judge or have no time for?
Listening to the narrative of a stranger’s life while walking in his/her shoes is a very powerful metaphor and reminder of how life might be if we all exercised some empathy to people around us, whether we know them or not.
So far there are 30 stories and shoes available. A brilliant idea stunningly executed by the whole team, A Mile in My Shoes will tour internationally in 2016 as part of the Empathy Museum, adding to their collection of shoes and stories.
A Mile in My Shoes
Riverside Gardens, Nine Elms Lane, SW8 2DU
Fri 4 – Sun 27 Sept (excl. Mondays & Tuesdays)
12pm – 6pm
The post will stay live until Monday 14th September