I’m delighted to be a commissioned artist for Margate NOW 2021. Find out more about my site-specific work ‘Loci’, for The Sunken Gardens, Margate, on my residencies and commissions page. Visit my entry on the festival website here: https://margatenow.co.uk/sonia-overall/
My latest book, Heavy Time – a creative non-fiction work exploring pilgrimage, psychogeography and walking in search of thin places – is published on 1st June 2021 by Penned in the Margins.
More details on the Heavy Time page on this website, or buy direct from the publishers here.
My manual of creative walks for readers, writers and creatives of all types, walk write (repeat), is published by Triarchy Press. See the book page for more details. You can buy direct from the publishers here.
Fancy a walk? Choose a drift, follow the prompt and explore in new ways.
Drifts assembled for the 2020 Fourth World Congress of Psychogeography.
Explore your living space in silence, seeking the source of secret and hidden noises. Go on tiptoe, listening for squeaks and creaks. Follow the path of rumbling pipes. Seek out tiny cavities, containing echoes.
The room you are in is a landscape. Where is the horizon? What are those vast objects in the distance? Follow patterns underfoot. Walk perimeters like the edges of fields or shorelines. Find a pool of light to swim through or float on.
The aliens have landed! As you walk, look for evidence of interplanetary visitation in your environment. Can you find any unidentifiable objects? Is that strange, mutating botanical an alien plant species? The sings are out there…
Take a hide-and-seek wander. Look for, and give attention to, objects and creatures that usually go unnoticed. Seek out the partially obscured and hidden. Note some potential hiding places of your own.
Take a geometrical drift, collecting 2D shapes. Start with circles, then gather triangles, rectangles and squares. Keep working up through 5-, 6-, 7- and 8-sided shapes. See if you can push up to 10 – and beyond.
Follow the colour red, using your walk to join the dots between red objects and instances. See where it takes you.
4th-6th September 2020
Sonia will be at this year’s virtual 4WCoP, behind the scenes and in events. Come along!
Saturday 5th September, 19.00 BST. A psychogeographical poetry evening in the Congress’s virtual pub, The Psychogeographer and Compass. Sonia will be a reading a couple of poems from The Art of Walking.
Sunday 6th September, 10.00 BST. 4WCoP Distance Drift. Sonia hosts a special #DistanceDrift for the Congress: a live, synchronised drift, walking indoors or out, wherever you are. Meet at the virtual Bus Station. Go to Twitter and follow #DistanceDrift @soniaoverall to join in.
Sunday 6th September, 17.30 BST. Walk Don’t Walk Plenary. Sonia hosts the Congress plenary, featuring walking artists and practitioners. In the cafe.
At any time: Pick a Drift to walk in your own time. Hosted on this site and live for the Congress.
Walking together apart: Sunday lockdown walks
Sonia is leading Distance Drifts, a series of Sunday morning synchronised walks via Twitter.
#DistanceDrift is a space to walk alone – or in your social bubble – and connect with other walkers. Themed prompts keep the walks playful and interactive. Walks can be followed in any space, indoors or out.
Distance Drifts started on the first Sunday in April 2020 and continue throughout lockdowns. Themes so far have included dealing from Sonia’s Drift Deck, walking by numbers, exploring islands, investigating Blue Moons, finding faces through pareidolia, vicarious adventures with mascots, walking with Alfred Hitchcock and scavenger hunting.
Synchronised Distance Drifts take place on Sunday mornings at 10am BST. Follow @soniaoverall and #DistanceDrift for live prompts, or follow the thread in your own time.
a walking women’s manifesto
created by participants at the POW! Thanet festival, 17th March 2019
We should feel entitled to our own space. We should be walking to ‘look’, not to be looked at. We should walk in our own footsteps and not follow others. We have as much right to take up space as anyone else. (If 17% of the crowd are women, everyone thinks there are as many women as men!)
Take back the joy of walking for its own sake. Be proud – claim the space. Be brave. Be bold. Walk where you want to. Be daring in your gaze. Look at other women. Love people-watching. Smile and say hello to people. You’ll be surprised. Walk smiling. Walk frowning. Walk alone and uninhibited. Walk in new places, exploring. Be a child when walking, totally absorbed in the environment, not caring what others think. Walk happily, free of glancing at a mobile phone. Always night walk at the full moon. Banish the thought of being murdered as you walk. If you don’t want to walk alone, get a dog or borrow one. Do not follow someone else’s footsteps. Follow your own path to create your own dreams, not someone else’s. Walk through life and try to find the strength to share.
Empathy for women’s spaces. Public design of space, managing pavements, restricting cars. No parking on pavements. No racing towards zebra and pelican crossings when someone is crossing. Respect for pedestrians. Better pavement surfaces. Better street lighting. Protection of public toilets to enjoy walking.
For street homeless women to be safe. To make the environment shine for all women walkers, including those for whom walking is too often imposed.
Texts for a feminist survival kit
readings from the walk & recommendations from participants
- Ahmed, Sara. Living a Feminist Life
- Angelou, Maya. I Rise
- Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre
- Burns, Anna. Milkman
- Carter, Angela. Wise Children
- Elkin, Lauren. Flâneuse
- Fey, Tina. Bossypants
- Rhys, Jean. Quartet and After Leaving Mr Mackenzie
- Rich, Adrienne. ‘When We Dead Awaken’
- Solnit, Rebecca. Wanderlust
- Wesley, Mary. The Camomile Lawn
- Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway
Distance Drift During the Covid-19 pandemic, join Sonia for virtual synchronised walk every Sunday morning – see #DistanceDrift for details
Streetwalking public walk and research event – tickets available!
Margate, Kent: 17th March 2019 What does literature have to say about women walking in public spaces? An interactive walk with texts that encourages women to take up public space and reflect on walking the streets. created for POW!Thanet Festival
International Women’s Day synchronised walk
8th March 2019 Women Who Walk Network synchronised solidarity walk. Join in wherever you are: http://women-who-walk.org/walk-in-solidarity-on-8th-march/ In collaboration with POW!Thanet Festival
A Journey Around Your Room
Take a psychogeographical amble around your own four walls and find new ways to write through lockdown. Free online workshop. Part of the Stay at Home Festival Fringe, 12 May 2020.
Kent Festival of Writing – Writers’ Circuits workshop
Join Sonia for a serious writing workout at the Kent Festival of Writing on Saturday 13th April 2019. Writers’ Circuits are a series of 10 minute idea-generating exercises designed by Sonia. Expect intensive writing against the clock using prompts and some lateral thinking. Fill your notebook with ideas for development into your chosen form. Part of a day of writing workshops, talks and events. Book tickets through the festival website.
Let us call things by their right names.
Ned’s father, who was not his father, was called Jack Muir. And Jack’s father was called Edward Muir. Edward begat Jack, and Jack Muir married Jane, and begat Edward, Ned’s brother. Ned’s half-brother.
Will Davenant, on the other hand, did not marry Jane, and begat Ned. Edmund. Edmund Muir.
Ned, though, as his mother called him, as we shall call him, sounding of warm brown horses summoned across a field, breath steaming, the smell of soil after rain. Edmund always seeming a hard name to him, a nut, an acorn buried. And Edward, his brother Edward, tall crowding trees and dank forest clearings, empty spaces and dead wood. Always Edward. Never shortened.
Your father chose your names, Ma says. She says it in that soft way, her tucking-in voice, her plaster-and-cotton-wool voice. She says it into my hair as I kneel on the floor, letter in hand, just the height for her to wrap a towel around me, to brush down a curl, to push my chin to her navel. But you chose our middle names, then. Didn’t you Ma? Edward Jack Muir. Edmund William Muir. Oh yes, she tells me, tapping the Sonnets, fingernail tracing printed laurels. Of course I did.
Ned wakes to find that he is a bastard. A natural child, a changeling, a half-sibling. A cuckoo in the nest. After the shock comes the rage. After the rage comes curiosity, an itch that must be scratched. He sits up in bed. He holds the Sonnets, the letter, the photograph. He steps into clothes gathered from the floor, seeks out his address book and dials the number of dear old Aunt Alice.
‘What do you want, Edmund?’ she says. ‘Your brother is sorting everything out.’
Ned breathes, counts.
No more 1. family gatherings no more
2. waiting rooms. No more
3. no more.
Now he can ask.
‘It’s something Edward said. About Ma. About music.’
‘Your mother didn’t have a musical bone in her body.’
He breathes again. 4.
‘Edward said she used to turn the pages for someone’ Ned says. ‘I thought you might know. Did she work for a pianist?’
Aunt Alice shifts her weight at the other end of the line. Ned has disturbed her. Ned is causing her to stand. A scuffle, a sigh, she sits heavily: scraping of metal stool on vinyl kitchen floor. Ned sees the kitchen, geraniums on the windowsill, the gauze curtains tied into the corners with yellow bows.
Do you remember when you were little and you
8. you ate those furry leaves and were
9. sick in the sink? They smelt of greenhouses, those leaves, of tomatoes and cucumber plants. That was
10. that was why. Breathe.
‘I don’t know anything about her working for a pianist’ she says. ‘Edward must have been thinking about the church.’
Church. But you never went to church. You told Edward, Ma, you said the quickest we could do it, the shortest stop at the crematorium. No prayers no hymns. You never went
‘Your mother’ says Aunt Alice ‘had a bit of a fling with religion. After Edward was born. Of course it didn’t last. Nothing she did ever lasted. Then she had you.’
‘Do you know which church?’
14. Ned knows. He knows that his aunt knows and
15. will not tell, because.
16. She knows, yes, she knows alright.
‘I just needed something. Something else about Ma. What she was like. Before me.’
‘Headstrong’ says Alice. ‘That’s what she was like.’
19. She makes Ned wait. Lets him out a little, gives him a little more line.
‘Canterbury’ she says. ‘The cathedral.’
She hangs up.
I turned the pages for him once, many years ago.
Of course. He wasn’t a pianist, he was an organist.
Becket, Archbishops, the choir: the choristers Ned had longed to join and never could, because his parents – his mother, Jack Muir – couldn’t afford the fees for a cathedral school. St Edmund’s School, his school he’d said. His voice. But they wouldn’t put him forward for a scholarship. He was good enough, Ned: he knew it. He could have done it, could have won a place.
Was Will Davenant the reason?
Did Father know?
The Canterbury phone book jumps from Daunt to Davenhill. He may be ex-directory. He may be dead. Ned switches on the laptop, waits for it to churn into life.
He finds a website for Canterbury cathedral but there’s no Davenant, little about the organists. St Edmund’s School site shows boys in blazers, a girl playing a flute, equations on a board and foaming test tubes. The scholarship: Ned scrolls, clicks. The cathedral organist is connected to the choristers. Did Ned’s father know? Did his mother want him to go, but Jack Muir refused? Did she wish to spare him, them, from the knowing? Ned leans back in his chair, stretches. Slumps again.
He tries the name Will Davenant and Kent.
There is the will of John Davenant of High Halstow, proved in 1628. There is a school in Essex, established in the 1660s by Ralph Davenant. Joane Davenant marries John Coo in the 1580s. But will is a common word. Ned tries again.
There is Sir William Davenant, born in 1606, rumoured to be the bastard son of Shakespeare. Will Davenant, an anthology listing beside Ben Johnson, dramatic poet. Mohun, or The Last Days of Lee, its Davenants trapped and toiling in another continent’s civil war.
William Davenant Canterbury
The illegitimate Sir William again. Yes, he is the same as the dramatic poet, the one in the anthology. Ned should stop here. There are no leads, no threads to his father. There are no dates or addresses, no alliances, coincidences, no accidents of discovery. We can see where this is going. We call to him as he rubs at his neck, digs his thumbs in where the skull rests, his nape exposed. That nape his mother would touch when he slept, that carried the scent of him into adulthood. Don’t go looking. But he doesn’t listen. He closes the screen, pushes back the chair. Takes his coat from the peg. He stops in the hall and we see him in the mirror, his eyes are dark, yes, his nose almost bruised from the rubbing and pushing of knuckles as he worked but we see what his mother saw, what she sees, standing behind him and looking back in the mirror, the curl that always separates above his right temple, that face that was his father’s face, the dangers of it, the reason he is as he is and alone in the house, the reason he will do what he does next and so he will go on, grief after grief, fall after fall, and nothing we can do or say will stop him.