Walk A Mile In A Sewage Worker's Wading Boots

By Londonist Last edited 29 months ago
Walk A Mile In A Sewage Worker's Wading Boots

Londonist is proud media partner to Totally Thames.

Photo: Mike Kemp

"Isn't it crazy that there are 10 million of us in London, but people still say that they're lonely?" ponders Roman Krznarik.

He has a point. How many of your neighbours do you know? Do you know their names, what they do for a job, whether they've spent time in prison?

It's an issue that Roman's hoping to solve by way of a giant shoebox situated by the river near Vauxhall Bridge. He's the brains behind A Mile In My Shoes, an event coming to London as part of Totally Thames next month.

Stepping inside the shipping container disguised as a shoebox, you'll be welcomed into a shoe shop. Assistants will be on hand to measure your feet, and once they have your size, you'll be presented with a pair of shoes. But they won't be brand new shoes for you to take home.

Instead, you'll be given a pair of headphones to take with you on a mile-long walk, at your own pace, alongside the river. What you'll hear through the headphones is the story of the person whose shoes you're wearing. You could hear about their job, their family, the highs and lows of their lives.

You could find yourself in the shoes of a man who works in London's sewers, a chess grandmaster, a paediatric brain surgeon, or a bearded drag queen named Timbelina.

And they all live within one square mile in Wandsworth.

In a bid to create a "global library of strangers", Roman and his team recorded stories from this particular area by the river — both eccentric characters and everyday people.

"The river is the heartbeat of London," he says. "By sourcing people who live near the river, we're getting a cross section of the city."

It's clear that some of the stories have stuck with Roman himself. Referring to someone who was imprisoned for 14 years for a crime he didn't commit, he says: "It makes you feel angry—how did this happen to this person? It's not fair."

Who does Roman hope will take the opportunity to walk a mile in someone else's shoes?

"It would be great if some politicians tottered down from Westminster," he laughs. In reality, the event is open to everyone — all stories are suitable for young ears, and those who are unable (or unwilling) to physically do the walk can listen to the stories inside the shoe shop. People can also leave their own stories (and a photo of their shoes) behind for future visitors to listen to.

"We really want to hear the voices of the whole city," says Roman, who plans to take the project to locations as far flung as Paris, Sydney and Beirut as part of a longer term project called The Empathy Museum.

The shoebox will be in situ and open to anyone curious enough to drop by from 4-27 September. Spend a whole afternoon there getting to know your fellow Londoners, or drop in a few times to hear the stories of different Londoners.

Who knows where spending half an hour in a Wandsworth drag queen's sky-high high heels could take you?

A Mile In My Shoes takes place 4-27 September (except Mondays & Tuesdays), noon-6pm. It's free to take part, and there's no need to book.

Londonist is proud media partner to Totally Thames.

Last Updated 03 September 2015