walkie-talkie too

Louise Douse’s report from Sideways

Since returning from the week that I was at the Sideways Festival I seem to have begun very many new journeys as a result. I’m not sure if it was the many new and interesting people I met on the way, the space (both physical and literal) which opened itself up to me on the walks, or the challenge (and subsequent success) of dealing with all the obstacles along the way. I do know that I have a new motivation, a new plan, and despite still managing to procrastinate at a marvellous rate (I have spent two weeks avoiding writing this) I am getting things done.

I met very many different people and personalities and was struck by the diversity of experiences they all seemed to have acquired over the course of their lives. There was Andrew; a serial student, with a plethora of courses and awards to his name (even if one of those was purchased for a tenner!) Amanda, who had been travelling for many months across Europe, sleeping in the back of cars, dancing, and learning circus skills. Peter (or Christian) who travelled with the donkey enjoyed clubbing in Spain and was a magnificent Thai masseur. Dee, who whilst being a Professor in Performance and Walking, and the Dean of a Research Graduate school, still found time to perform weekly duets with her colleague. Every single person I met and talked with; Andrew, Amanda, Peter, Dee, Misha, Lynn, Bram, Eleanor, Daniel, Reg, Susanne, Kaspar, Yana, Kata, Stein, Amélie, Andy and Sinta all uncovered many interesting pasts and I was sharing this new experience with them all.

Each person had their own unique perspective on life and yet somehow we had all converged at this particular point in time for this particular festival. For me, the motivation for becoming a Walking Librarian was the chance to explore Belgium for the first time (and very cheaply too)! On our first walking day I enjoyed walking and talking, and walking and thinking. I learned that Belgium’s landscape is very similar to my home in Hertfordshire, England; quite flat, lots of farming fields and open spaces. I only became aware of its therapeutic affect on me once we started entering Brussels and there was no longer the space to think, to look outwards, across the open spaces into the distance, to where your eyes could rest but not focus and your mind could wander forwards into this space in front of you. I couldn’t tell you what I had been thinking about or even that I had been thinking at all, I just walked.

However, the walking did not come without its obstacles; on that final walk in Brussels I was walking with a burst blister on my little toe (perhaps another reason why that day was not so therapeutic)! However the physical ailments were often lesser obstacles than when having to deal with perspectives that were adjacent to my own. Among the mix of personalities I began to realise and shape an understanding of my Self; I began to understand where I fitted in, but also to value others, but more importantly, my own views. For a long time I had felt I was fraud, (a symptom of being a PhD student I am told), and I never felt it quite so acutely as on the first night; my welcome to the group consisted of a bombardment of questions of which only a few I could adequately answer. I floundered and failed miserably at articulating my own research; however, throughout the week I began to reconcile the differences I held within myself and learn that this was the biggest obstacle and success of them all.

Since returning home, and directly as a result of this festival, I have re-evaluated my research; I have learned that the most fulfilling research comes from those most passionate of conversations. I have enrolled onto a massage course with the aim of training as a Thai massage therapist (preferably in Thailand)! I have decided to begin performing weekly duets with an old colleague of mine, and I have learned that I am not so bad after all!


Louise is a PhD student at the University of Bedfordshire studying Dance, where she struggles with ‘flow’ and form, and enjoys playing around with new technologies. Her research addresses the body/mind debate and looks at those moments of flow within dance improvisation which evidence a full and active engagement of both mind and body. She seeks to capture those moments with Motion Capture technologies in order to understand how subjective experience can be objectively displayed. Louise also lectures in dance theory and is hoping to extend her portfolio as a Thai massage therapist and performer (even if it it’s just dancing around her room for the pot plant).


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