Closing the Distance

Walking Distance by Lizzy Stewart

Like Lizzy Stewart I like walking. I particularly like walking if I don’t have a destination or some kind of commitment to structure my path. What I really like is the independence and autonomy of walking. In Walking Distance Lizzy walks around London contemplating what it means to be an adult. She thinks of her cinematic role-models. Independent women making their way in the world – adults with confidence and assurance (and nice coats.)

I love shots of women walking through cities in films. I like that they are alone and alive and usually wearing a nice coat. I like that even though they are a part of a bigger story, something grand or trivial, for those seconds they are removed of their story line, the knots and tangles, and they are simply people, immersing themselves in the city, disappearing for a moment and allowing the noise of the world to eclipse the noise of their lives

Walking Distance by Lizzy Stewart

Often it is adulthood that robs us of our independence. When we are walking we are going to work (must be on time) or going to collect our children (really must be on time). The stroll down the street to a brunch date with our cool friends? Not so much.

Walking gives us time to think. Time to be creative, introspective or just for random strands of thought to coalesce; sometimes to good effect. Each morning as I go to work I walk along a canal path for about 15 minutes, invariably this is the time when I get my best thinking done because I’m thinking about nothing. The voles and swans, the kingfishers and rats draw me into a world far distant from the nearby office. Invariably those 15 minutes are too short, even in the rain.

Walking Distance by Lizzy Stewart

But there is a pressure involved in trying not to think. Our thoughts are consumed by the constant information stream of the world. Our phone makes sure that we are never far away from the controversy de-jour. We are challenged to take a stand, to pick a side in the polarised and nuance-free debates of our age. Not inducive to creative thought or mental well-being.

Clear headedness seems impossible. My focus wavers from one thing to the next; falling back on lazy, digital scrolling so as to half-trick myself into feeling engaged with the world. Being engaged seems all very well, but it’s only constructive if you’re also acting on your new information. I worry that I am just filling an enormous suitcase with heavy items that I have to carry everywhere, despite never finding a use for any of them.

Walking Distance by Lizzy Stewart

Lizzy Stewart looks at walking in the context of all the pressures of life and especially as a woman. There has been some great work done in this area by projects like Lone Women to record women’s experiences of making their way alone. Walking alone, walking alone at night, going on public transport, walking in the wilderness, going to gigs. As a man there are a lot of things I just don’t have to think about too much. Do I need to worry about getting on the night bus alone? Not usually. Am I concerned about going to a gig on my own and getting home safely? I don’t really need to be.

Walking Distance by Lizzy Stewart

Walking is a different experience dependent on gender, class, race and age. I tend to wear headphones, giving myself a soundtrack to life. Sure, I’m standing at a bus stop in the rain carrying a bag of cat litter but I’m listening to Miles Davis (or more likely something a lot less cool), so it’s all good. If you have concerns about your safety maybe that is not so easy.

The art of Walking Distance has a soft penciled style which is almost a contrast with scenes of a giant Lizzy striding the Brobdingnagian streets. Lizzy is at one point cool and poised, in another anxious and worried or unhappy with her body, much like all of us. The colour palette of Walking Distance is muted. We see dark washes of blue-grey skies of the type that anyone walking around these islands is used to. Like a walk that brings you new perspectives as you turn a corner, the book uses different layouts – multiple grid panels, single pages of illustration with no text and text with no illustration.

Walking Distance is a bit like a walk then. We absorb the environment as the author does, our thoughts flit around and we keep the worst of the world at bay for a little longer. A thoughtful and engaging work I can recommend a stroll to your local bookshop for a copy.


Walking Distance By Lizzy Stewart

Hardcover, 56 pages, full colour, Published by Avery Hill. 24th October 2019

Find more from Lizzy Stewart on her website.

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