Two years ago this month, Werner Herzog made me walk 100 miles from my home near Liphook in Hampshire to the tiny hamlet of Ibberton in the Blackmore Vale of Dorset. Well, I say Werner Herzog made me walk 100 miles, the reality is that his writings (in particular Of Walking In Ice) and his online Masterclass seminar inspired me to do it. The whole journey took me just under 4 days. However, unlike that last statement, it wasn’t all preening self reflection (although there was a surfeit of that elsewhere – especially towards the end of really long days) as I bothered people about it incessantly for charity. I’ll say a little bit more about that in a minute.
Werner also inspired me to make this short film based on the walk. As much as possible, I tried to avoid using my phone except occasionally for phoning family and checking my OS app but I did record some voice notes on it. I also tried to take photos whenever I stopped and this film is an odd non linear confusion of the two. I hope you like it. If nothing else, I’m assuming I can now twat around like an entrenched eccentric German film director prone to deadpan witticisms and borderline threatening manliness. If I didn’t already.
I walk for several reasons, but chief among them has become the positive effect it’s had on my mental health. Life as an actor and writer can be incredibly rewarding and I consider myself very lucky to be able to spend my days pursuing a career in the arts, but it’s vagaries can often render you confused, stressed and isolated. Walking can help clear the mind and gain some perspective. On the whole, I feel like I’ve been spared some of the darker spirals that can take hold during a bout of black dog, but many others are not so fortunate.
A career in the arts, which is so reliant on self evaluation, self expression and self examination, can place a more targeted kind of burden on a person’s mental health. And when you consider that one in four people in the UK will experience mental health issues at some point their life, then consider what the effects are on those in the performing arts.
Yes, the highs are incredible but the lows are indelible.
And here’s the quasi-political preachy bit: I’m genuinely worried about this country’s attitude to funding, celebrating and protecting the arts. Without the arts speaking truth to power, you have despotism and if you don’t take care of the artists, you have no art.
The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) is a healthcare charity giving medical advice to people working and studying in the performing arts. It’s also the charity I raised money through the walk for. BAPAM can help performers overcome (and preferably avoid) work-related health problems, and they are dedicated to sharing knowledge about healthy practice. You can find out more here: www.bapam.org.uk
So donate today – it’s what Werner would want you to do.