As part of the recent Totally Thames festival, Empathy Action Director Ben Solanky reflects on his experience of the ‘A Mile in My Shoes’ exhibition.
The other month I stepped into a giant shoebox on London’s South Bank.
Inside was a huge collection of shoes, each with its own story. The idea: you walk in, remove your shoes and put on those of a stranger who lives within a small radius of where you are standing. You are then given a pair of earphones and have the chance to listen to a snippet from the owner’s life.
We hit play and walked.
It was fiddly walking around in the waders I must admit. I soon forgot the ambient noises around me as I focused on the voice in my ears and gazed out on the beautiful river Thames, a lifeline for the city that I too often take for granted. I learn about the history of the man whose shoes I am wearing; about how he loves the way that his job as a crayfish catcher gives him a totally unique perspective on the river and the city it courses through. Every adjective he uses testifies to the passion he feels and I was quickly absorbed.
For a brief moment these creative and imaginative empathy steps transported me into a world of strangers and their lives, one in which I saw familiar surroundings in a whole new light.
For more about the Empathy Museum’s immersive style and outlook of founder Roman Krznaric’s, check out his fascinating RSA talk on ‘The Power of Outrospection’. Why not also get in touch with us about stepping into or hosting one of our own immersive simulations.