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York St John University academics lead on dark sky walks for women

Published: 02 April 2024

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Northern Lights over the village of Crayke

Two York St John University academics are to run dark sky walks across the North York Moors to create environments where women can feel safe and find creative spaces. 
As part of an ongoing research project into women, walking and dark skies, Claire Hind, Professor of Contemporary Theatre in the School of Arts, and Jenny Hall, Senior Lecturer in the York Business School, plan for the night-time walks to involve a mix of navigation skills and creative experiences focused on the geological terrain below and the astronomical sky above. 
The walks will involve preparing and navigating in darkness using the land, sky and basic navigational tools. 
Claire and Jenny also hope to create a series of walking scores for women to walk to in dark sky reserves. The two recently walked with The Long Dead Stars, who premiered their new electronic dance poetry track, Dancing Under Dark Skies, at the Dark Skies Festival, during a slow night walk on the North York Moors in February. 
The research will explore how walking at night and in the dark as a creative, embodied practice opens up new possibilities for women to walk together leisurely and freely, in otherwise known exclusionary space.  
Claire said that many women feel unsafe to walk in the dark and choose not to, and the research will look into ways of developing creative methodologies for inclusivity, inspired by the natural environment. 
“The research project aims to creatively map a space for women to walk in situ with dark sky space, in protected dark sky reserves, and compose imaginative, playful and performative scores for an embodied transformative experience,” said Claire. 
“Discussions and findings around the project and the experience of the walks will ultimately be published in an academic journal, and it is hoped that the walking scores created will be available as a free resource in the future. This will mean that other groups of women will be able to walk, feel safe and find creative spaces to walk and witness dark skies within national parks.” 
There will be two separate walks in the first phase of research. Participants are not required to do both walks, but places are limited to 12 women per walk and booking in advance is essential due to limited numbers. 
You can listen to Dancing Under Dark Skies  on Bandcamp and Spotify.


Image Credit: Northern Lights as seen in the village of Crayke, Sunday 5 November 2023, by Amalie Iona. 

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