A Mile in My Shoes is an installation that twins an immersive physical experience with an audio tour, all in the name of empathy.

Commissioned by Mayflower 400, the organisation established to commemorate the iconic ship’s 400th anniversary with a year of programming, the exhibition brings together eight diverse individuals’ stories to interrogate the similar and disparate life experiences of people living in one community.

Visitors select a pair of shoes belonging to a contributor and then take a walk along the Esplanade at Westquay listening to that person telling their own story.

Shoes and stories

The eight stories, all of which will become part of the Empathy Museum’s permanent collection after this event, were provided by:

  • Tom Wilkinson, professor of Respiratory Medicine, University of Southampton
  • Professor Margaret Ross MBE, emeritus professor of Software Quality, Southampton Solent University
  • Aaron Phipps, London 2012 Paralympic athlete
  • Eva Dixon, co-founder of a local grassroots charity supporting African woman
  • Dahlia Jamil, cultural leader who has worked with Art Asia to facilitate access, experimentation and engagement with the creative industries
  • Ram Kalyan ‘Kelly’, community radio producer
  • Lou Taylor, director of Black History Month South
  • Ciro Scognamiglio, graffiti artist and chef

“A Mile in My Shoes will give people the opportunity to share stories and to practice the art of empathy, in what is both a playful and often profound experience of connection with our common humanity,” says Clare Patey, director of Empathy Museum.

The installation is free to attend but, in light of Covid-19 guidelines, pre-booking is recommended. It is open 10am until 4pm Monday to Wednesday and 10am until 6pm Thursday to Sunday. The first two hours between Monday and Wednesday are prioritised for visits from over 70s and vulnerable people, with fewer tickets available to boost social distancing.

To further ensure visitors feel comfortable regarding the show’s coronavirus safety procedures, contributor shoes do not have to be worn and the audio elements can be accessed via visitors’ own devices or by bringing their own headphones.

The installation, which will run between 12th and 20th September, has received funding from Southampton City Council and Arts Council England along with additional support from Westquay.

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