Despatches from the margins

I’ve been on marginal walks with around 40 people over the last few years. Some were relatively well known – Jean Vanier, winner of the 2015 Templeton Prize and founder of L’Arche, for example. Most were relatively ordinary: students, artists, carers, teachers, asylum seekers, parents and children. All had felt on the margins at some time.


I’d walk with each person for around 30-60 minutes; talking while sitting down didn’t generate the same response. They were a form of Socratic Walk. We’d start by talking about different meanings and associations with the word ‘margins’, then look at the margins around us and allow them to shape and influence our subsequent conversation. I recorded our conversations and afterwards listened and transcribed them: each felt like a personal letter to me.
I produced cards with an image of the margins the person chose on one side, and selected extracts from the conversation on the other. These provided the basis for my contribution to the Social Sculpture Festival in Oxford.
It was over a year later, when I was asked to contribute to a conference on ‘Spiritual Places’ at Liverpool Hope University, that I looked again at the transcripts. I realised that in virtually every walk each person had spoken about a time when they had felt on the margins, and that invariably this moment had been a major – or minor – moment of authenticity and wholeness, leading to a sense of transformation. I presented these as ‘despatches from the margins’ which I reduced to a sentence or two. Some of these are given below:

Finding myself unloved (Olivia)
Three times with cancer (Alex)
Sharing fears in the darkness (Clare)
Conflict, lostness, loneliness & humiliation (Jean)
Going into the unknown (Martin)
Taking risks for the sake of principles (Mary)
Accepting pain and loss (Myokun)
Feeling and voicing my feelings (Rebecca)
The tyranny of normality (Sam)
Escapism and addictions (Alex)


Chris Bemrose undertaking a marginal walk with Jean Vanier, 2015 Templeton Prize winner and founder of L’Arche
I am now seeking to undertake a series of Marginal Walks with people from across a particular company, community group, Church or Charity. This would be a work of art to explore how the margins touch us within an organisation. Please contact me if you would like to pursue this in relation to any organisation with which you are involved.