British Social Athlete: journey complete

British Social Athlete set out from Jaywick on Saturday 14th July and travelled over land and water over the course of seven days to the final destination: East London. LACE Artist Mel Donohoe made eleven pit stops along the way, delivering a message of eleven words created in Jaywick and voted for by residents attending the Jaylympics on 14th July. She set off from Essex, to the sound of a drum roll and cycled into the distance.

Photo by Kerith Ririe

Mel visited Jaywick many times in the weeks preceding the journey and met residents and visitors in lots of places around the area. She asked everyone she met what they would say if they could send a message to London and the rest of the world. After collecting over 300 messages from people of all ages, she made a short list of the ones she found interesting and carried a lot of significance because of the stories she had heard and the many different perspectives she had encountered in Jaywick.

British Social Athlete was a regular visitor to the Knit and Natter group, who meet in the library weekly. The women in the group taught Mel to knit and she spent her Thursday mornings knitting a scarf in the BSA colours to wear on her journey. She talked extensively to the Knit and Natter ladies about Jaywick past and present and she asked them to help her select three messages from her shortlist to be voted for at the Jaylympics. These messages were:

1. Community is real: We know division. We are the community.

2. Not to denounce anyone: we just want a fair playing field.

3. We’re not writers of tomorrow. Standing on the balcony of Jaywick.

At the Jaylympics, people were asked to vote for the message they would prefer British Social Athlete to deliver to London on their behalf. They chose number one: Community is real: We know division. We are the community.

The journey of seven days, 11 pit stops, £11.00 pounds per day to live on and the delivery of 11 versions of the message along the way began on 14th July and Mel eventually arrived in London on the afternoon of 21st July 2012, the day that the Olympic torch was scheduled to be en route through all five Olympic host boroughs. Team BSA arrived in Dalston, East London, where this message was whispered and shouted to the people of London.

Finally, Mel travelled to the site of the Olympic Park on the afternoon of 21 July 2012, where she reflected on the differences between where she had come from and where she had arrived, how the message had been delivered and how it felt to make the journey, keeping the message safe and becoming an oracle; speaking it to the unsuspecting.

The whole process was documented in many ways but principally as moving image. There will be a film made of the project, which will be available to watch later this Summer.