Mayflower 400 Southampton

A Mile in My Shoes

In September, Southampton welcomed the award-winning immersive project from Empathy Museum, A Mile in My Shoes, as part of Southampton’s Mayflower 400 anniversary programme.

A Mile in My Shoes is a shoe shop where visitors are invited to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – literally. Wearing a pair of the contributor’s shoes, visitors go for a walk, listening to the shoes’ original owner telling them a story. The stories cover different aspects of life, exploring themes of shared humanity, from grief and loss to love and joy, visitors take an empathetic as well as a physical journey.

The installation included stories from all over the world along with eight new local stories from Southampton, commissioned by Mayflower 400. Might you be walking in the shoes of a local radio host, a doctor leading the charge on a COVID-19 treatment, an activist, a musician, a Paralympian?

A Mile in My Shoes was at Westquay on the Esplanade in Southampton 12th-20th September 2020. Each week one of the Southampton stories will be added here as a podcast so you can listen to their stories too.



Listen to Southampton's stories here

Wednesday 4th November

Professor Tom Wilkinson is Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Honorary NHS Consultant Physician within Medicine at the University of Southampton. Professor Wilkinson’s work focuses on understanding the mechanisms which contribute to the vulnerability to and impact of respiratory infections in patients with chronic lung disease. In 2020, his team have been trialing an inhaled drug that could prevent worsening of COVID19 in those most at risk.

Listen here

Wednesday 11th November 

Dahlia Jamil has been actively involved in access to education and learning for disadvantaged groups, particularly women from BAME communities, in Southampton over the last 30 years. Dahlia is an organiser of the Women’s Education Association and is the Chair of Art Asia. She is passionate about the arts and through her work has enabled individuals and groups to access, experiment and engage with the creative industry.

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Wednesday 18th November 

Professor Margaret Ross MBE has been named one of the most influential women in IT. Professor Ross is an emeritus professor of software quality and research fellow, Margaret has championed careers in IT – especially for women – for the last couple of decades. Quality, education and gender issues within computing are just some of Margaret’s areas of expertise.

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Wednesday 25th November 

Aaron Phipps is a Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby player and London 2012 Paralympic athlete. Aaron contracted meningitis C and meningococcal septicaemia (blood poisoning) when he was 15. Aaron was in a coma for two weeks and both of his legs and most of his fingers had to be amputated due to the septicaemia. After spending a year in hospital recovering, Aaron enrolled at college and took part in a 10km wheelchair race. Since then he has spent his time climbing mountains and competing professionally in wheelchair rugby.

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Wednesday 2nd December 

Ram Kalyan “Kelly” was educated in Nairobi and England, Kelly is a qualified electronic engineer in sound and lighting. Kelly has now been running Unity 101 community radio station, the leading ethnic community station in the South of England, for 17 years. Kelly works closely with Hampshire Constabulary, the NHS and local schools as well as providing support for many young Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the city in training and development. 

Listen here

Wednesday 9th December 

Eva Dixon was born in Kenya and is an economics graduate and a chartered accountant. Eva is also co-founder of a local grassroots charity, an entrepreneur, developer of the market leading property portal in Kenya and leader of several women empowerment projects. Her group, Umoja na Upendo Support Group, seeks to bring together and foster understanding amongst black and ethnic minority communities residing in Hampshire, UK.

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Wednesday 16th December

Lou Taylor is a local businessman running Streetside Media providing marketing and advertising support to businesses in Southampton. Originally a professional musician for 20 years, both as a session player and producer, it was establishing himself in the business world which really highlighted the covert racism that existed in the city and demonstrated the need for organisational change. As Director of Black History Month South, Lou believes education and a better understanding of our collective history is the road to greater harmony within the community.

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A Mile in My Shoes has clearly had a powerful impact on people individually, but also in the way they think about our role in tackling real world issues. One of our most experienced General Managers wrote to me this morning to say that she was moved to tears by the experience, and I spoke to several people who were also powerfully affected. Tony Berry, Visitor Experiences Director, The National Trust

Empathy Museum is a series of participatory art projects dedicated to helping us look at the world through other people’s eyes. With a focus on storytelling and dialogue, our travelling museum explores how empathy can not only transform our personal relationships, but also help tackle global challenges such as prejudice, conflict and inequality.

Since the Empathy Museum was founded in 2016 over 30,000 people have taken a walk in someone else’s shoes with versions in locations across the world from Sao Paulo to New York, the Scottish Highlands to the Houses of Parliament.

Southhampton is Empathy Museums first outing since the Coronavirus lockdown and we have taken new measures to make the experience as COVID safe and enjoyable as possible. There will be shoe shop assistants on site, who will explain the process in more detail.

Find out more about Empathy Museum and A Mile in My Shoes here: 

Some photos from the installation in Southampton

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