‘Perambulator’ consisted of a series of participatory artworks to explore the mobility of new parents with prams and buggies. The project was developed during a residency at Deveron Arts, Huntly, Scotland. Using ethnographic fieldwork including extensive walking, walking interviews and participatory mapping with pram users, a socially engaged arts practice h and development of the events. Two research imperatives framed the work:
1. To explore participatory walking and talking as methods for generating new understandings of place.
2. To generate new narratives around parenting and mobility.
Walking interviews and collaborative mapping enabled sharing, cataloguing and exploring feelings about urban infrastructures that affected participants. Infrastructure restrictions (e.g. narrow pavements, the lack of dropped kerbs) and lack of access to ‘wilder’ landscapes for prams and buggies were dominant themes. Parent-and-child participants co-designed performance events to make visible the restrictions identified. These included an ‘edge walk’, in which a group of pram users followed a path out of Huntly as far as was physically possible to push, and a ‘Perambulator Parade’ which created a mass occupation of the town’s streets by pram users, drawing on the protest march and the celebratory parade to raise visibility and assert the right to the street. The research was accompanied by a project blog providing a narrative of the evolving research methods and outputs.
This work contributes to a growing body of social practice art foregrounding process and participation and involving communities in the co-production of artworks. It offers new methods for creative participation, using walking to locate social and political issues including access, visibility, mental health, the impacts of life-changing events and the transformation of routines. It also contributes to the depiction of mothering/ parenting, enriching cultural narratives and offering new insights into parental experience in urban environments.