By Andrea Gambaro
Located in the north-west corner of Hackney, Stoke Newington has been recently dragged into the rapidly expanding makeover of the East End. Nevertheless, gentrification hasn’t erased the village-like character which distinguishes “Stokey” – as it is known locally – from the typical London urban landscape.
Such character is particularly evident along Church Street, where the original hamlet developed. At its east end, the Neo-Egyptian gates mark the main entrance to Abney Park, home to one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ London cemeteries. Past the gates, the inscriptions of ancient gravestones accompany the visitor through wide avenues and narrow paths, alongside memorials, monuments and, in the middle of the park, the Gothic chapel.
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My PhD research is a study of the layers of heritage and cultural meaning within the Victorian garden cemetery Abney Park in Stoke Newington, north London. I am a practice-based researcher, and my research methodology is to explore these themes by way of a walking practice in the cemetery. I have crafted four audio walks in an endeavour to offer the community an invitation to view a selection of, perhaps, new perspectives and doors of perception into the various aspects of the cemetery space.
Throughout my four years as a walking practitioner researching Abney Park, I have walked alone through the cemetery, at all times of day, at all times of year. However, I have been walking in Abney for a total of nine years, simply for my own personal enjoyment. Sometimes I would walk with other people, but the majority of my time in Abney has been as a woman walking alone.
Perhaps from naivete, or a certain rash boldness, I never considered my walking practice as strange, or particularly dangerous. And it wasn’t until two years ago, when I read psychogeographer Geoff Nicholson’s account of taking a walk through Abney Park Cemetery, that I considered my gender – and my favourite pastime – could be perceived this way.
Continue reading The Gendered Garden: Sexual Transgression of Women Walking Alone in Cemeteries