Perambulator is a walking project that explores and reflects on the experience of walking with a pram (or pushchair).
In the first months of my son’s life, pushing his pram around the area that I have lived in for the last 12 years, I was struck by the number of detours that I had to take – the route alterations, the small (and not-so-small) impediments to smooth passage. My very familiar routes through and to places were rudely disrupted, forcing a new relationship with the very physical details of the urban environment.
A new radar evolves – seeking out the dropped kerbs and the ramps – avoiding steps, narrow gaps, awkward turns. Going the long way round becomes the norm, steering clear of particular places or particular routes because of their accessibility problems.
Viewing the city through this new lens feels political. Losing the freedom of easy mobility – a freedom that I hadn’t been aware of before – connects me to a massive group of people (predominantly women) in the same position, encumbered by wheels.
Perambulator is a project, a performance, which makes visible these issues through a mass walking (with prams) through and around a specific place. Adaptable to pretty much any location it seeks to highlight the everyday issues, annoyances, awkwardness and roundabout requirements of pram pushing.
Ernest, like many babies, naps well in his pram. This connects to an important strand of the project – the common experience of walking babies to sleep and walking to keep babies asleep. This in turn raises awareness of the fabric of the streets – for example ‘cobbles for colic’.
I first made a version of the project as a one-off event at Lewisham art house in May 2012. You can find out more about it here: http://www.clarequalmann.co.uk/Live.html
In May 2014 I will be making a version of Perambulator for the town of Huntly. My son is now 2 and a half, and it’s his baby sister (5 month old Ruby) who is predominantly in the pram (though he often has a ride still too). We will be living and working in Huntly for a month, inviting pram users to share their walks with us, and organising a series of workshops and events that discuss, explore, reflect on, and celebrate walking with prams.
Clare Qualmann, March 2014