Night Walks: Secret Staircases

///Night Walks: Secret Staircases
Night Walks: Secret Staircases 2017-10-02T20:29:26+00:00

May 2015

Led by Oona Fraser
Text by John Simpson
Photographs by: John Simpson

My favourite and most surreal experience during the Jane’s Walk Festival was participating in the two Nightwalking and Secret Staircases walks lead by Oona Fraser. A wide variety of people that attended both walks, ranging from young to old. Everyone seemed very friendly and there was a sense of camaraderie during the walk, even more so than any other walk I’d been on.

Both of these walks by Oona had the same concept but a different route each night. I had signed up as a volunteer photographer on the second walk, so I decided to check out the first one as well. There wasn’t much talking during the walk because one of the purposes was to have the experience of silence at night, but there was an introduction at the beginning by Oona. She explained that her aim was to simulate the therapeutic, and yet socially mistrusted, act of wandering alone at night. Oona also talked about how night walkers have been viewed as socially deviant and with mistrust by the public throughout history. In the past, it has been illegal in England and Canada to the extent that jails were constructed especially to hold night walkers. She brought up the idea that when people see someone walking alone at night there is often an assumed criminal intent attached to the walker by the viewers, but the act of night walking can actually be used as therapy to have space to think.

The fast pace, silence, unknown route and darkness seemed to blend the back alleys, side streets, winding staircases and wooded ravines together in my mind. I felt as if I had been transported into a strange, unknown world despite living next to the same neighbourhood for over ten years. We saw hidden walkways and staircases in between residential areas or parks that you would never have thought would be there. It gave me an interesting sense of not knowing where I was despite being next to a neighborhood that I know very well.

When the walk was finished around 1:30 a.m., I came out of the experience with a sense of accomplishment and mental tranquility. I felt as though I had formed a bond with my fellow silent nightwalkers with whom I shared an almost unexplainable experience.