One of 26 Miles

Just some of the woollies needed while researching the mile

For our project ‘26 Miles’, writers have teamed up with collaborators to celebrate each and every mile of the London marathon. Here Sarah Butler tells us what she and her team mate are planning.

Next week, I’ll be standing at the entrance to St James’s Park for a day. My plan is to capture passers-by and find out why they’re there. I might ask them if they realise that they’re about to cross the finishing line of the 2013 London Marathon. But I’m more interested in why they’ve come to maybe the only road in London with no shops, no offices, no industrial units, no cafés – unless you count the hut inside our end of the park, which has no seats or heating – and really only one house, Buckingham Palace.

I don’t run marathons – I ran a half marathon in about 1987, but that was the last time I did anything so foolish. But I do write obsessively about place. Even if I write a story centred on character, I can’t help myself – I’m always pulled in by where it’s happening.

So Andy’s pitch at Wordstock tweaked my sensitive spot.

His description of 26 Miles was also tantalisingly unstructured: minimal brief, any medium. And he demanded that I work with someone else. Ooh, the sheer pleasure and terror of relinquishing my control-freak tendencies.

I’ve done so-called collaborations before, but they’ve always really meant me writing something, and someone else producing images or a design to go with it, or vice versa.

This time, I’m working in a true partnership. A couple of weeks ago I met Mark Cocksedge on Birdcage Walk, and we wandered through the park throwing ideas back and forth. Stop-go? Burroughs-style randomly arranged snippets? Shots from a car window? Poetry?

When we meet again next week, we’ll gather images, film and audio of the people who flow through and round the park – and then we’ll decide what we’re going to do with it all.

Find out more about 26 Miles.


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