Last summer, I walked 50 miles from mine to my mothers house, carrying my baby on my back. This may be one of the oldest reasons to walk somewhere. Like the performance of pilgrimage, the walk refers to rites of passage, acknowledging all those who have trodden this new and daunting path before, and questioning the pseudo-religious sanctity of motherhood, too. During my walk it struck me how rarely we notice quiet footpaths as we whizz by on our way to work, which seemed an apt metaphor for the job of motherhood.


My maternal grandmother died when I was 1. Although I have known this fact all my life, I hadn’t given much thought to the impact of this event on my mother until I had a child of the same age. I told (and recorded) stories of my life from my mother’s point of view as I walked, as well as documenting the journey in mediated (via GPS and on twitter) and organic ways (collecting flowers, leaves and the light of the day itself on photographic paper).

e on back

I am currently transcribing the recordings, which I plan to present to my daughter one day. I am also working on an installation and a second, studio-based performance about the walk. In the meantime, you can view my tweets about the walk at @LizziePhilps. I like Twitter. You can’t get too self-indulgent in 140 characters.



About Lizzie Philps

I make participatory performance projects, including theatre, installations, site-based and walking events under the name Full Beam.
All my projects share a desire to illuminate and document the performative in daily life. The work is playful and irreverent, and explores the sensory, the la…Read more


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One Response to “The Pilgrimage of the Prodigal Daughter”

  1. Helen Sargeant

    Walking- pushing the pram along the Rochdale Canal from my home to either the supermarket or playgroup was my daily routine for the four years that I spent at home caring for my younger son. These walks were my sanity and savour. How I would have loved that the destination could have been my mothers home. Your post made me think of the pilgrimages that mothers must make everyday to collect water, buy food, sustain and maintain their children’s lives. Pushing the pram I often felt entirely invisible, and thought about all the care work that gets done in homes behind closed doors. Care work that looks like nothing but leaves you entirely exhausted by mid afternoon.
    Looking at the image of you carrying your baby. I also remember how heavy a small body can feel as the day or walk progresses.

    I am really interested about what you talk about in relation to time and mothering. When I was breastfeeding Naoise as a baby, changing his nappy, holding him, bathing him, putting him to bed at night- this became my new clock. There was no 9-5 no clocking on and clocking off. Mother time is a constant. Its so interesting how the smallest things can bring such pleasure when caring for a child at home. Watching leaves blow in the wind, a bird collecting twigs for its nest, a digger or tractor passing the road in front of the house. As you say time slows it becomes sludgy, blurry, one day slips into the next.


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