Oliver East, walking the trunk road

This morning I popped down to Waverley Station to witness the start of Oliver East’s ten-day walk from Edinburgh to Manchester, recreating the route taken by Lorenzo Lawrence and the elephant known as Maharajah in 1872.

The walk, 200 miles along the A7 and A6, is part of a project sponsored by the brilliant Lakes International Comic Art Festival, and they give plenty of background to the story on their site. I’ve been a big fan of his work since reading Trains Are … Mint a few years back, and his 2014 project, The Homesick Truant’s Cumbrian Yarn was probably the best comic series I read last year, especially the sequence in part four where the wind becomes overwhelming.

His method is to walk a pre-set route, usually close to a rail line, taking notes and then recreating his journey as an impressionistic narrative. His style can take some getting used to, with long stretches rendered with varying visual shorthand — crosshatches for fences and trees, for example, in earlier books, repeated coastline more recently — but when you do there is a soothing rhythm to it, which carries you forward. When that rhythm is broken is where many of the most effective passages happen — the odd spot of railway trespass, a drunk German, level crossings (he loves level crossings) — making them especially memorable. Which is why I wonder what his journey will be like this time, as the A7 is not a forgiving road for walkers, with few options for detours. He likes a challenge, I suppose.

Down on the Waverley concourse, the station had laid on a nice slideshow on one of the information screens, and a few people came up to ask what was going on. Radio Scotland were there, with Nicola Meighan doing an interview for today’s Culture Studio (Starts 1h22m). Someone else filmed a short interview, probably STV (will post a link when it’s up), and a couple of chaps were on hand to make a film of the walk, which is also part-sponsored by Craghoppers.

Forbidden Planet were also around, taking a few pics, and they did a great post last year on his Kendal residency.


We’re going to try to do a proper interview and photoshoot some time in the future, but he was clearly itching for the off, and it promises to be a long, hot day, so I let him get on with it.

Good luck, Oliver.

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