The evening walk

Ana asks, what is a pilgrimage, so I have to think
is she asking me?


So for me if you mean, in the sense of it being a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion: absolutely not, as I only ever relate to the world around me in an agnostic sense – or the dialogue around asserting the uncertainty of all claims to knowledge.

I do relate to human experiences being potentially transcendental though, so any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, of the nature of or expressive of a wish or desire.  Though not to pay homage!!  and I’m sceptical E.G. of regarding the human being as the central fact of the universe, assuming human beings to be the final aim and end of the universe, viewing and interpreting everything in terms of human experience and values.


For 17 years I have been in dialogue with a remote spatial location, Solovky Archipelago in north Russia... If you were sent to Solovky gulag in the early part of the 20th century you never -returned... and its meaning become synonymous with state control... to this day it is still a place to be feared. It was an impossible idea for me that such a place could exist... almost... the books I read created a place like hell and heaven... a frontier and meeting point, an impossible crossing between beauty, fantasy and human disgrace.


The ability to transcend the temporal space you occupy through the lens, screen and increasingly predominant Internet can fundamentally displace and potentially collapse distance and time, one can literally jump through distance and time whilst remaining static. So, what does this do to our memory, which was once defined by our physical and experiential understanding of time and distance? What new memory experiences or spaces of memory are we able to conceive of and as a result take forward to allocate with our experience? 


It also suggests that we examine whether the aesthetic of this is moral or how aesthetics encounters define ethical or political contexts. The conception of “social memory” (I’m still not sure what this means) could potentially ask how we might approach thinking about these social memories, confronting our collective memory and how it is somehow vulnerable to the dark demiurges of irrational myths of death, sacrifice, and fertility (in themselves non-linear, uncertain, irrational and not fixed). In this sense I am motivated and I feel compelled to do something, to act,  or else I have to sit and take what is put in front of me. So as we set off to locate or even tentatively experience “in the world” when we attempt to account for, narrate or represent our world with all its intimacies, banalities and wonder we are inevitably going to end up in places that after the horrors and memories of recent histories we would perhaps rather not go. Places that represent or are represented and reinforced by the image experiences of public tragedy we encounter all day every day in the media or simply are not represented. In recognising this ambiguity between what is represented and how it is represented what we encounter will not always be seductive places of delight, the descriptions given to us as visual tourists to feast our eyes on served up in neat proportions to stimulate our eye lust. For as we know what we visually encounter is not separated from our memory, personally and culturally, so are our memories purely made from the neat optics of Sunday strolls in nature, travel brochures or the garbled chit-chat of television or the ever-increasing world of streamed information? 


Of course not, but where is the space to think about them beyond the surface of the image and combine them with the very thing we need, the ability to think about our meanings and relationships to things and imagine? 


As Mark E Smith so wonderfully put it – pictureless memories dissolve in a panic, only humans carry their past around like this.


It was only when I stepped off the plane on Solovky for the 1st time in December 2004 that I really understood what this meant. To put my feet on the ground in a place I could not imagine (previously only from maps, through texts, web links or images) did the world of the physical collide with the world of memory and imagination. The intense feeling of a social memory under my feet combined with a direct physical and emotional force of experience collided together in the actual moment being there, stood there on the island. So, the task for me as an artist is to explore how you construct this into a form or more importantly for me represent this and share it? What is the most appropriate language to negotiate this with in order to record or combine memory and experience? The motive underpinning this question is to develop approaches to creativity and cultural dialogue, which is critical and experimental in nature (or it simply follows orthodoxes of language) and which can lead to the possibilities of new or developing insights. Whilst this reads very much within research language, I quite like it. This emerges out of the need I have to develop appropriate ways of working within this culture of change and a need for continual reassessing of its systems of value and representation of it. This is what I feel we are facing, and have, contesting, if you like what to do now.


Seventeen years later, my last (physical) visit was in February 2020, (arrival to Solovky 02/20 is the short film above) on the journey home I began to hear stories of a ‘pandemic’ and saw lots of face masks in international airports. 


My stone, from our dialogues over the last 2 weeks,  embodies something ‘in itself ‘that reflects the result of a pilgrimage in a way, though I’m sure the stone is no doubt very indifferent to this……probably saying only anthropocentric beings carry their past around like this. 


Did the pandemic reach Solovky?


The nearest I can get to something like a pilgrimage was when we used to go to watch football, it had some form of collective aim, experience and ritualistic target associated to it...sadly its too expensive to go anymore on a regular basis.

Dialogue as pilgrimage

I didn't move at all. But I was moved quite often by our dialogues and the generous presentations of our guests, who kept narrating stories of displacement around the world, expressed on graffiti, social media, murals, interviews. Geographies of pilgrimage, of nostalgia, of oppression, of new narratives and dialogues. I didn't move at all. And yet, it feels like I have been on a long journey, met interesting people, learnt their stories. New baggage to take with me to our next journey.


Just following Baloo.

Ain´t no stone can hold my body down.

It usually took about 12 hours to get to Nicosia from Nottingham. Home to East Midlands, 30 minutes, but leaving enough time at the airport so I do not freak out. Walking around the tiny airport, bored, excited, looking forward to meeting the group again, as we do on a yearly basis since 2016…

5 hours and 6 minutes on the plane. Two films, reading, a few toilet trips to move my legs… I know I am not that old, but you never know…

It is always so hot in Cyprus! Find the car rental, all sweaty. Drive to Nicosia, another hour, following google maps until you see the Turkish flag in the horizon, lit in the night, so we do not forget… But it makes me remember that we are not far from Nicosia anymore.

All my trips to Cyprus seem to be connected, not only as a working trip with my creative friends, but also as important family landmarks. The first time, 2013, I had just learnt that I was pregnant with Thomas. I was travelling with my boss, and I had to disclose this information (which was far too early) because I was feeling really faintly all the time. It is always so hot in Cyprus! I did not like my boss. I only started liking him when he introduced me to Yiorgos. My boss died a few months later. Thomas was born a few months later. Yiorgos is still in Cyprus, a landmark that remains like a rock in the landscape. All my memories of Cyprus have Yiorgos in them. With his students, his friends, his family, at his university, his home, his work…

But other people feature in that pilgrimage that used to take around 12 hours to get to. CCFT is there, very fluid in our workshops at the university, our installations in Ayios Sozomenos, the walks in Famagusta, the copious meals and always the dialogues. Altogether, in twos or threes, with others. Nice chats. Like those with Andy when he became a friend, rather than a former colleague from NTU. And my father, who passed away a couple of weeks before I stayed at the Spanish Ambassador residence. Can’t help to shed a tear as I remember him, as I had a glass of wine with the ambassador who was so generous with me. No Ferrero Rocher, but amazing white rioja!  And my kids… I finally made the pilgrimage with them to Nicosia. Half term in Cyprus and we spent 3 days in a military tent in the buffer zone. What a bizarre experience it must have been for them, running around in that stretch of land, showing their passport all the time, as if that was normal. I took them on a short pilgrimage to Ayios Sozomenos, and they loved the story about how dangerous it used to be to go to the loo, to be (potentially) killed by a spider. And we visited Pyla, inspired by the letters read by Sue and Jim about their memories at a coffee place. I tried to find the same one, but not sure I managed! We ended up in one that was slowly opening, and we got the drinks for free! What an experience for the kids… they kept remembering the free drinks and the days in the buffer zone.

I wish I could embark on those 12 hours to get to Nicosia.  Instead, this year, our pilgrimage is taking place in my sitting room, on my own, no hugs, no meals, no walks around the old city, no storms nor Sahara dust. Just one hour and 15 minutes every Friday evening. Does this count as a pilgrimage?

– originally there were four but I ate two. 

Pilgrimage... the only association the word brings is ‘Nan Shepherd’.*


It’s like a black hole in my brain. I seek places that lack traces of humans; the sea; the mountains, places with no buildings; with no loaded messages.


I’ve been thinking of ‘pilgrimage’ all week. 


* Nan Shepherd, 1823 - 1981;  Scottish writer and poet, best known for her seminal mountain memoir, The Living Mountain, based on her experiences of hill walking in the Cairngorms (source: Wikipedia 😬, but I also have the book). 

Cranfield holy well stones. These two small amber gypsum crystals have been in my purse for 25 years – originally there were four but I ate two. Family photo taken on Cranfield pier Dec. 18.

Who else can talk

I have never been on a pilgrimage

I have just gone to places and looked

I have no belief that can warrant such an act as a pilgrimage

but looking is a sacred act and through that it is a dialogue with something

that is not the end place

The choices of paths in a system of lines, textures, colours, obstacles, guides, entrances materials. 

Pame (Lets Go) Kaimakli festival 2020, organized by the NGO Urban Gorillas. Curated by Veronika Antoniou and Teresa Tourvas 


  • Activity - Community gardening: Open for Kaimakli residents.
  • Planting a vertical herb garden for a spatial installation in the square. 04.09.2020

  • Activity: "Restaurant Stories revealed in a Bowl"
  • Interactive Performance by We circle Collective
  • We Circle Collective works with a group of migrants to bring and serve you dishes and stories from different parts of the world. 05.09.2020


This year the Pame (Lets Go) Kaimakli festival aims at generating Human Topographies of the diverse groups of people- immigrants, elder people, kids etc, through the act of eating and all relevant activities.

The vertical herb garden created a platform or the SPACE that bore the sense of the place to the various groups of people. The Kaimakli residents performed a kind of pilgrimage to their roots and to the contemporary way of living and brought to the SPACE their offerings- plants from their own garden to create a common garden. That facilitated a few actions as the collective caring of the SPACE, the everyday watering and gathering. At the same time, a few events were orchestrated and choreographed: elder people took a pilgrimage to their dusted memories and filled the SPACE with myriads of stories; immigrants fetched their own stories or if you wish their own pilgrimage to the SPACE so all the Kaimakli residents visit it.

On the shores of Lough Neagh, Northern Irelnad, at Churchtown Point lie the ruins of a 13th century Church and St Olcan's Shrine. Near the shore, a few yards east of the church, is a holy well which produces spring water and amber coloured crystals. It is believed that Olcán was ordained by St Patrick, and was buried at Cranfield in soil brought from Rome. The church was in use for over 400 years but appears to have been destroyed by 1662. During penal times and the suppression of Catholics outdoor masses continued to occur at Cranfield, and so up to the present day on the closest Sunday to June 29, St Olcáns Feast Day.

The holy well is a site of pilgrimage and was meant to be visited on three occasions between May Eve and June 28th. The following was the process, the pilgrim came to the church with seven small stones and kneeled before the door of the church saying the Our Father, Hail Mary and the Creed. The pilgrim would then walk barefoot clockwise around the church saying the

Rosary. When they arrived back at the door they would drop a pebble and complete another round. When this was completed the seventh time the pilgrim would draw some water from the well and bathe themselves in it.

There are many cures and much folklore attested to the well. It is said that its waters rise on the 29th of June and small amber gypsum crystals are lifted into the well. Lough Neagh, which it seems serves the well has a high silica content which cause timber left in the lough to petrify and become stone-like. These crystals were thought to protect women during childbirth, protect fishermen from drowning, and homes from fire and burglary. During the mass emigration of the 19th century people believed swallowing one of these stones would assist in a safe voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The custom was banned by the church in 1828 as they deemed it to be too pagan.

I learnt to drive here, have slept in the ruins of the old church, ate the stones from the well and eels fished straight out of the lough. I fell in love with a man who was an eel fisherman in Lough Neagh; watched my dear friend and brother in law get buried in the small church graveyard; was proposed to on the short wooden pier and bring my children to visit on every trip we make home.

Does this count as a pilgrimage?

Cyprus from the air, flying across the Pentadaktylos mountains

Dear Ana, Dear All,


We were struggling with technology last night, so found a full engagement with the discussion rather difficult. But we want to thank you, Ana, for leading the conversation and eloquently opening up aspects of pilgrimage in relation to the broader thematic of this Nomadic Dialogue: leading us from the stability, or portability of the stone or rock towards the liminality of the traveller as pilgrim – although the word ‘liminality’ was not used last night. 


Liminality, a threshold, a place of betweenness – neither one thing or the other – a state of ambiguity or disorientation prior to a realisation, or resolution, perhaps.


You spoke of travel and your experience of flying to Cyprus as a form of pilgrimage  and as a five-hour bubble between the UK and Cyprus:  a non-space within which thought or transformations and distillations of thought might occur; a space of transition between your everyday here in the UK towards an unstated, if secular goal. This is something we can all share, as we consider our own journeys, whether from Bergen, Glasgow or Sheffield to Nicosia.


Stepping out of the everyday away, in effect, from what is comfortable and reassuring we enter a realm of movement and uncertainty:  one of bodily movement and physical and psychological transition; a threshold world of betweenness, ambiguity and disorientation that can be neither one thing nor the other, while being wholly experiential and physical.  Duration contributes to the overarching affects.  This alignment of travel as a key feature of the pilgrimage, even though it was noted that pilgrimage can occur without movement, has led us to consider a few thoughts that we want to add to the pool (clear or muddy) of our dialogues. 


We all talked of the relatively short distance and duration of our mini-pilgrimages, while the long history of pilgrimage, both in the East and the West, is one of long journeys that could last years, leading in some (perhaps, many) cases to the death of the pilgrim. As such, and understanding the stresses and dangers of pilgrimage, pilgrims would prepare with care and leave their estates (if they had any) in good order should they fail to return.  Their’s was a major undertaking driven by a strong commitment and belief.  (We don’t want to use the word heroic here but can’t help thinking, should there be a less gendered concept, it might be applicable in this context.)


While returning from Konya in central Anatolia via Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, some years ago, we were witness to a small group of pilgrims already wearing the ihram (cloth garments of Muslim pilgrimage) who were rushing towards their gate and towards Mecca: their demeanour and movement a beautiful mix of urgency and intention; their quick vocal exchanges ones of anticipation. By exchanging their day-to-day clothes for the ihram they had entered the pilgrim’s liminal state. We by contrast were in a state of stasis and, in a sense, a coming down having made our pilgrimage to Konya, and sitting in the liminal non-place of the airport, clutching our coffee cups, and waiting for another call that would take us back to the UK and our everyday.


The relatively short length of travel required now has changed our relation to the liminality of travel and of pilgrimage. If, as was discussed on Zoom, there is a changing of perspective by moving away from the everyday to engage with the act of pilgrimage, then length of travel may have a great effect on the pilgrim’s perspective. There is plenty of evidence of such changes across the literature of pilgrimage to the Middle East, from say, the 4th century Galician woman pilgrim, Egiria, who journeyed to the Holy Land and Jerusalem; or the 13th century rhila narratives of Ibn Battuta or Ibn Jubayr who journeyed from al-Andalus and North Africa respectively to Mecca and Medina, but also to Jerusalem; and in the early twentieth narratives by individuals like, the Muslim woman, Sakineh Soltān Vaqār al-Dowleh Esfahāni Kuchak (1899–1901), the Scot, Lady Evelyn Cobbold (1933), and Harry St. John Philby (1931). These give just a glimpse of the history of pilgrim narratives and we note that there are many more narratives that relate to the various pilgrimages that are undertaken around the globe.  In the context of the Buffer Fringe, it’s also relevant to note that Cyprus was both a stopping off or staging point for pilgrims taking the maritime route to Palestine and back again.  Certain sites on the island were, and still are, a focus of pilgrimage in their own right.


If travel is a factor in the idea of pilgrimage, our last thought relates to the journeys of those ‘heroic’* groups of political, economic or so-called illegal migrants or refugees (women, children, youths and men) who travel across days and years to leave their everyday in the hopes of finding a transformative space or place to dwell. We wonder, could we not consider them as pilgrims? And in the process wipe away the pejorative usage of the word migrant (immigrant) and its coupling with the word ‘illegal’. A semantic shift that might lead to a greater generosity towards them as fellow human beings and travellers.


‘I am a pilgrim, and a stranger

Travelling through this weary land …’**


 * In this instance we have purposefully used the word heroic as a counter to the media and political negativity that surround migrants.

** Lyrics from the Bluegrass adaption of the folk and gospel song, Poor Wayfaring Stranger’.

This idea of changing one’s state as one moves towards an experience is something attached to Pilgrimage:  A spiritual journey common to most of the great world religions.  One of the physical means by which medieval Christians  moved towards a closer relationship with God was by means of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which from Britain and Europe meant travelling along pilgrim routes from places such as Canterbury, in the South East of England, or Santiago de Compostella in Galicia, Spain, through the South West of France, and on via Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, (and as each of these countries is now called) Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Syria and finally to Jerusalem (in Palestine/Israel).


Part of the condition attached to pilgrimage is a state of ‘arousal’ or ‘anticipation’ or ‘expectation’, and ultimately ‘transformation’ or ‘revelation’ as with every step of the journey, and leaving the ‘everyday’ behind, the pilgrim, as they walk, is getting one stage closer to their intended goal.  These forms of pilgrimage, by Christians as well as those of other faiths,  we know have been happening for at least 1700 years and by Muslims since the C7th.  And according to archaeologists, possibly since the Neolithic times, pilgrimages were made to sites such as Stonehenge or the Ness of Brodgar on Orkney and, possibly, they are starting to think, between the two places.  All of these pilgrimages were, and are, absolutely Relational and Participatory:  it is a pre-requisite of the journey, ‘peregrination’ or state of wandering.

AS Lud’s Church: in the middle of nowhere, a meeting point for those looking for the sacred during the pilgrimage, the dialogue with the anonymous rambler, the discovery of nature.


Golf is now one of the few sports left that you can play at the moment.