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Terry & Rachel Harvey - Be Active Be Healthy Coventry

Why we walk: Coventry walkers share their story ahead of Black Men Walking

Posted on 2 February 2018

Next week, we’re excited to be welcoming Eclipse Theatre’s innovative new drama Black Men Walking, the first production to come out of its groundbreaking Revolution Mix scheme. Dedicated to the real-life, Peak District-based Black Men’s Walking Group, the show follows three men – Thomas, Matthew and Richard – as they explore the Yorkshire landscape, uncovering a rich, 2000-year history in the process.

Written by rapper and beatboxer Testament, the play’s narrative emerged through conversations with walkers about their reasons for joining the group. Their answers were surprisingly varied.

“Part of this commission was actually to go out walking with the guys, to catch a bit of the vibe and find out what the walk means for them,” explains Testament. “There are lots of different motivations. Partly it’s a health thing – both for mental and physical health. There’s something about connecting to nature that affects our mental health – it’s well-documented in psychological studies that greenspace is important for us.

“Also it’s a way of creating a community group and building friendships. For men of a certain generation particularly, there’s a question around where you go to make friends and find your community. As a society we’re so fragmented now, which also has knock-on effects on our mental health and spiritual wellbeing.

“And these guys have found a really positive way of reinforcing black identity as well, because the stereotype is that black British people just belong in cities and aren’t really connected to nature. For some people, just going out walking is a statement. Some people find the image of a black man in a cagoule halfway up a hill in the Peak District quite strange, but it shouldn’t be, especially when black people have been here walking the land for over 2000 years.”

Inspired by Testament’s interactions with the Black Men’s Walking Group, we got in touch with some walking groups in Coventry to find out more about what motivates them. Among those who kindly agreed to share their story with us were Terry and Rachel Harvey, both members of the council’s Coventry Healthy Walks project. You can read more about their journey below.

When did you join Coventry Healthy Walks?

A few years ago we attended different walking groups all over the city which were being led by other walk leaders and really enjoyed it. Terry had had a stroke and we wanted to build his confidence back up and joining the walks was the best thing to do. It was a really good way for us to spend time together doing something we enjoy.

How long have you been Walk leaders and why did you become walk leaders?

We became walk leaders in 2006 when we retired. We needed exercise as we found when we retired we lacked motivation to do anything else and found we were sitting a lot. Joining and running a walk makes you get up and go. When Terry ran a residence group in Tile Hill they asked about setting up a local walk and that’s why we decided to do the walk in Tile Hill. We go for various walks depending on the weather such as into Tile Hill Woods, Pig Woods and then go to the Tile Hill Library for refreshments. Tile Hill Library have been really supportive over the years providing free refreshments for our group which we really look forward to after the walk. Leading the walking group has been our way to help and contribute to our community.

Have you noticed any positive changes that coming on the walks has made to your life?

Walking has helped Rachel with her diabetes and her blood pressure has been reduced. Terry has benefitted as he used to run a lot and had a stroke many years ago hence why he started to go to walking groups. It has helped us socially and we have made some lovely new friends. Terry has recently been diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and has to carry an oxygen tank so he is able to walk far. It is taking time to adjust to this new condition but we are determined to remain positive and continue leading the walking group.

To find out more about the Coventry Healthy Walks project or to get involved in a local group, visit the website at www.coventry.gov.uk/info/168/physical_activity/463/coventry_healthy_walks. You can also find out more by following @BeActiveCov on Twitter, or check out the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/beactivebehealthycoventry.

Black Men Walking runs at the Belgrade Theatre from Wednesday 7 until Saturday 10 February. Tickets are available to book now at www.belgrade.co.uk/event/black-men-walking.

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Nov 2, 2017, 9:22 am