London Life Exhibitions

A Mile in My Shoes

September 7, 2015

It’s finally here! The debut of the Empathy museum launched on Friday with A Mile in my Shoes, as part of the Totally Thames festival.

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.

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

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!

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

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.

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

The inside was too dark to photograph so I picked out details. I have it confirmed that there’s lighting now…

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

Some poignant and potent quotations adorned the walls.

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

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.

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

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.

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

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.

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

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.

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

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.

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

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.

A Mile in my Shoes - colourliving

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

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13 Comments

  • Reply Jocelyn September 10, 2015 at 1:13 am

    Well, this is by far one of the most incredible ideas I have ever heard of and now “seen”. I wish I could be there to experience it…as you know, I believe the power of story has the ability to bring us together and allow us to speak to one another from our hearts. This is inspiring…thank you for sharing this, Tina. Hugs! Jx

    • Reply tina September 13, 2015 at 7:33 pm

      I love it too. I knew about Roman wanting to start an Empathy Museum but didn’t know what shape it would take. The execution is as brilliant as the concept, idea and the stories. I am so happy it will travel on to Australia with some stops on the way. Everyone should have the opportunity to be part of it. xx

  • Reply mel September 10, 2015 at 11:06 am

    Oh I felt quite emotional reading this Tina. This is such a wonderful concept and we need more of this in the world. I would LOVE to experience it. Amazing! Thanks for sharing xx

    • Reply tina September 13, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      I couldn’t agree more and am actually proud it first was devised here in the UK. The whole experience is very moving and I really enjoyed walking in Gary’s shoes while listening to his story. Very very powerful stuff. Thanks Mel xx

  • Reply Katharine September 11, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks for flagging this great project up. I first saw it on your blog and now planning to visit with my family. Going to see how my kids will react, plus wonder how I’ll feel.

    • Reply tina September 13, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      Hi Katherine. Thank you for stopping by.

      Great. I hope to return before it closes. I don’t know how old your kids are but it’s never too early to integrate them into ‘real life’ with ‘real people’, if you know what I mean.
      Let me know how you got on…. and who’s story you listened to.

  • Reply Mon@secretgardenhome September 12, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Love the idea! Very inspiring! I hope I’ll get a chance to visit. Thanks for sharing Tina. Have a lovely weekend. Monx

    • Reply tina September 13, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      Hi Monika,

      You’re ALWAYS travelling!!! Good on you:-) Maybe you will be able to make this. I think you would really like it. It’s so unique and powerful!
      Hope you had a nice time away xx

  • Reply Holly September 14, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    simply awesome! one of the best things I’ve heard in a long time! This needs to be a world wide thing. Thanks for sharing Tina xoxoxoxoxo

    • Reply tina September 22, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      I so wish I could have taken you with me……. you would just have loved it!
      And I totally agree with you xx

  • Reply Judith September 25, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    I totally agree with Holly: this should be a world wide thing! There is such a lack of empathy in today’s society, people just keep judging the unknown and it’s heart breaking! As you may notice, I’m finally catching up on some blog reading 😉 September has been crazy and we missed you with Plants & Art this month. Glad to see you’re still having all kinds of London adventures. Bisous!

    • Reply tina October 6, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      Hey you. Congratulations on your Innovations award at MTB Amsterdam. Did you guys have fun? Are you celebrities yet?:-))

      I couldn’t agree more. There’s really such lack of empathy and it’s getting worst. Project like these should be taught in school.
      I completely missed the Plants & Art months. Opened the email too late and just didn’t find the time. That said, must open this month’s email to see
      the topic and organise myself:-)
      Hope you’ll have a great break and holiday. x

  • Reply roman krznaric - carpe diem reclaimed - colourliving colourliving March 21, 2016 at 9:05 am

    […] first Empathy Museum. I felt so privileged to be able to go and see it. Read my post on it here. As a founding faculty member of The School of Life, Roman has also been named by The Observer as […]

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