A Figure Walks is the title of Megan Henebury's walking art-practice. During October, Megan will be walking the course of the River Rea from its source at Waseley Hills though the city of Birmingham to its confluence with the Tame under the M6 motorway.
Rather than strictly following the disjointed walkways and roads of the city, she will walk in the waters of the Rea for as much of the route as possible.
The Rea is Birmingham's founding river, upon which the mills of the first Birmingham settlement were built. It has seen the rise of an industrial powerhouse supplying colonial expansion, the social revolutions of the 20th century, and the ravages of neoliberalism.
Throughout this history of demolition and rebuilding, the Rea has continued to carve its journey to the Tame – a rare constant in a city whose obsession with reinvention betrays a culture of self-loathing.
By walking in the river itself Megan will experience Birmingham from a perspective unfamiliar to most residents, where echoes of a long-lost pre-capitalist state might be heard, albeit muffled by the culverting and corralling of the river in the service of industry.
She hopes that these echoes will help reconnect us to the ground we live on and, in the age of capitalist realism, climate breakdown and global pandemics, renew our capacity for cooperation and self-sufficiency in our wider community.
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