We Go Outside Too with Marlon Patrice
In collaboration with Merrell
Having tragically lost his son to knife crime last year, Birmingham-based Marlon Patrice sought comfort in the outdoors to help him grieve. Realising the healing powers of nature, he set up We Go Outside Too, to help young kids from the local black inner-city community to experience the same beauty, stillness and sense of freedom that had helped Marlon with his grieving process. We joined Marlon and Leah on a WGOT hike to the top of The Wrekin, a steep and stunning Shropshire hill, to check out the views and road test the new Merrell Moab Speed shoes.
Can you tell us a bit about We Go Outside Too? When and why did you start it?
I started WGOT after losing my son to knife crime at the beginning of 2020. With my son passing away, I experienced days and nights of tears. Knife crime has always been a concern for me - it’s been prevalent in my community for as long as I can remember - but experiencing it first-hand like that brought it abruptly to the surface. I began to go outdoors more to cope with the situation; it was like nature was calling me. I’ve always had deep connection with the outdoors, and I felt more comfortable just to let the tears run freely there. It helped me overcome so much sadness at this time.
With the Covid-19 lockdown following that, just a few months later, the idea came about to form WGOT to get more of the community involved in outdoor activities, because it became clear that it wasn’t just me who was going through challenging times. So, I formed WGOT to get more of the community out into nature, to unplug from inner-city living and encourage solidarity and unity within the black community. Our goal is to visit more green spaces and create individual experiences, as well as educating them on environmental issues that the younger generations in particular can gain from.
What challenges are the kids on your hikes facing back home, in everyday life?
Inner-city communities face so many social hurdles, with the youth being targeted by the police and high percentages of homes having no garden or other outdoor space, particularly amongst ethnic minorities. Black people in England are nearly four times as likely as white people to have no outdoor space, like a garden, at home. Sadly, I’ve also realised that a very small percentage of the black community experience going out in nature. For most of them, going outdoors can mean travelling over two miles away from their home, so I felt this project was important for those that have lost touch with the outdoors and didn’t know where to start in terms of re-connecting with it.
Obviously, we are open and welcoming to people from all walks of life, but we acknowledge that the black community have less access to green spaces in the inner-city suburban areas, and we want to change that narrative with WGOT. We want to make the countryside more inclusive by making it more accessible to those who are unable to afford to do these recreational activities. We’re wanting to offer a variety of wellness workshops for our community, mentorship programs, and outdoor activities with the view of sharing new experiences and adventures and making that the norm within our community.
What are the benefits of going into nature more?
Being in nature gives you the tools to keep going and a sense of us all being connected as one, because in the woods everything works in unison with one another. It has rewarded me in the past and continues to give me time to re-set and focus on myself; it allows me to refill my cup when it’s empty. It creates a respite for any overthinking I do, especially living in the city where it can get too fast paced. It can feel almost impossible and overwhelming to focus. Being outdoors and embracing nature can do so much to reduce stress, anxiety, anger and fear.
What have been some of the reactions among your fellow hikers?
I have witnessed many shy and introverted children and adults who, while on the walks, have become more open and expressive. There is proof that being out in nature is the best therapy - I’m proof of it myself. We’ve had positive feedback from participants who previously felt isolated during the lockdown and are now embracing the group. They feel less alone and more connected when in this safe and serene environment. Sometimes I receive messages days after a walk saying that they still feel the benefits of having been outdoors as they noticed a positive change in their mood.
Have you ever taken someone who had never been out on a proper hike in the woods before?
I took my two young girls for their first walk; they were moaning at first, as it was something new to them, but then the more we carried on along the route, they began to enjoy the scenery and started to adapt to the surroundings. I feel it gave them a new outlook on the environment and they had fun learning and socialising at the same time. In the evening they slept very well. Now they keep asking when the next hike is!
How many hikes have you done, and where? What place was your favourite so far?
Since setting it up, we’ve done four hikes. We would have done more by now if it wasn’t for lockdown restrictions. The last one we did was to Lud’s Church, which is located in the Peak District. This was one of my favourite hikes as there are many scenic routes to choose between, even for intermediate level hikers. We have kids as young as seven joining us, so it’s important that everyone can hike comfortably and still enjoy the scenery.
What is the '22 Waterfall Challenge', and how can we support it?
We aim to visit twenty-two waterfalls throughout the UK. The challenge is ongoing and there is no actual cut-off date, as it gives us a chance to discover the beautiful scenery that this country has to offer. The significance of the ‘22’ is the date 20.02.2020, which is when my son was buried. I was reading somewhere that water has a powerful meaning in terms of life continuing and it’s also a reminder of being on the right path. With your support and with the help of our volunteers, the ‘22 Waterfall Challenge’ will help encourage the black community to explore the great outdoors. The money raised will fund all that is needed to embark on the walks, including transportation, clothing, walking boots, backpacks for children, food, accommodation, and activities.
Except for the waterfalls, what are your dream locations to go for a hike?
Close to us I would love to visit the Scottish Highlands, Isle of Skye and Ireland but if I looked further, I’d like to go to Patagonia for the natural springs and wildlife, Peru for the plants, Japan for the cherry blossom and Iceland for the volcanoes.
What could outdoor brands be doing more to increase efforts to more people from diverse backgrounds into the outdoors?
It's important that brands create a long-term connection with existing inner city community initiatives, like WGOT, that are pushing the message to diversify outdoor activities. Brands should also not just assume what's needed but ask and create some kind of dialogue, like setting up workshops encouraging outdoors activities and allowing the communities to meet the faces behind brands.
What's next for WGOT?
We will continue to explore and connect with nature.
Produced in collaboration with Merrell, with thanks to Marlon Patrice from We Go Outside Too.
Direction / Casting: Document Studios
Photography: Mads Perch
Styling: David Hellqvist
Photo: Assistant Rory Ronnie
HMU: Artist Amie Joan
Models: Marlon Patrice and Leah Bennett
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