A long weekend of free walking tours, organised and led by local people, to encourage us to explore, reimagine and celebrate our neighbourhoods.
This May 5th-7th will see Colchester host our 7th Jane’s Walk event (which leaves us all the more shamefaced that until recently we had no idea it existed!) It’s definitely time for us get involved in this wonderful, worthy initiative that sees local people, of all ages and backgrounds, devise and lead walking tours that can focus on almost any aspect of a neighbourhood, and on almost any topic you can think of.
The walks can be serious or funny, informative or exploratory; they can look at the history of a place, or at what’s happening in a neighbourhood right now. Anyone can lead a walk -- because everyone is an expert on the place where they live! (And when we say anyone, we mean anyone - this year includes a walk led by Anthony Roberts!)
Where traditional tours are a bit like lectures, a Jane’s Walk is more of a walking conversation. Leaders share their knowledge, but also encourage discussion and participation among the walkers. You can meet your neighbours, make new friends, and exchange business cards with new contacts. You can learn something new, and share what you know. But there are some big ideas behind these walks as well -- and they come from Jane Jacobs, the organisation’s namesake.
Jane Jacobs was born in America on May 4th, 1916 and died 90 years later in Toronto, Canada. She wrote the hugely influential ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ and has been credited with starting the New Urbanist movement. Her ideas on gentrification, mixed-use development and bottom-up planning changed the way cities develop to this day.
Interestingly Jacobs was not a city planner by trade; she was a concerned citizen who spent a lot of time observing city life around her. She became an advocate for the mindful development of urban spaces and left a legacy of empowerment for citizens to trust their common sense and become advocates for where they live and work.
After she passed away in 2006, Jane’s Walk was founded in Toronto by a group of her friends and colleagues who wanted to honour her ideas about the importance of urban literacy and championing the voices of local residents in neighbourhood planning. 10 years later the idea had spread to 212 cities in 36 countries, on six continents.
Jacobs believed that for a town or city to work, the people who live there must be involved in decisions about how it grows and is run. Staying informed about civic issues, learning the basic concepts of urban planning, and meeting the people who make the decisions are all good ways to do this - and these, along with getting some fresh air and perhaps developing a newfound fondness for your locality, are all things you can do on Jane’s Walks.
There really is something for everybody in the themes of this year's walks, from art to arborealism, history to haunted Colchester, recycling to riverside rambles.
The downloadable timetable of the 16 walks is available here - you're sure to find one that excites - and all are welcome to the launch party at Piatto Café in Priory Walk from 7:30 to 11pm on Friday, May 5th. Take a walk on the wild side, and get involved!