Pilgrimage for COP26

S. Gittins and J. Baxter

A walk and a learning journey from Dunbar to Glasgow working with cultural, community and interfaith organisations to reimagine what it means to be ecological.

The pilgrimage launches in Dunbar with a public engagement event on the 17th October. Walking commences on the 18th, to arrive in Glasgow on the 29th October – with key events taking place in Edinburgh from the 22nd to 24th and in Glasgow on the 30th and 31st October. Pilgrims are invited to join the pilgrimage at any point during the journey.

Basic information

17th October – 31st October 2021

A pilgrimage from Dunbar to Glasgow to reflect on the climate and ecological crisis in anticipation of COP26.

The pilgrimage includes a public engagement programme to accompany the walkers and encourage participation en route.

Participating organisations include Deep Time Walk Project, Interfaith Edinburgh, Glasgow and Scotland, John Muir’s Birthplace, North Light Arts, Scottish Dance Theatre, and more.


“Pilgrimages are a common cultural practice. Historically associated with religions, today they speak to a wider public. The Pilgrimage for COP26 draws attention to the climate and ecological crisis. It offers a chance to reflect on this crisis by walking two well-trodden pathways, The John Muir Way from Dunbar to Kirkintilloch and St Ninian’s Way from Kirkintilloch to Glasgow. A key question animating the pilgrimage is this, ‘How can we honour the mutual bond between people and planet, a bond that sustains our very existence?'” Jonathan Baxter, artist-curator, Pilgrimage for COP26.

“North Light Arts are co-curating the start of the pilgrimage from Dunbar and across East Lothian along the John Muir Way. We are working with East Lothian Council, Sustaining Dunbar, the Battery Theatre Company and Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace to begin the conversation with exhibitions, talks and an opening event on Dunbar Harbour.” Susie Goodwin, Director, North Light Arts.

“The simple act of walking together through time and space enables us to explore the many ways humanity is deeply interconnected with the more-than-human world. We are pleased to bring a deep time perspective to the Pilgrimage for COP26, helping to galvanise positive action and advocacy at this critical juncture for humanity.” Robert Woodford, Executive Director, Deep Time Walk Project.

Additional information

‘All sites of pilgrimage have this in common: they are believed to be places where miracles once happened, still happen, and may happen again.’

(Victor and Edith Turner)

What we understand by the term ‘miracle’ is open to interpretation. Here a ‘miracle’ is understood to be a collective form of hope and hope in action. What we understand by the term ‘pilgrimage’ is also open to interpretation. Here it refers to a journey freely chosen that offers potential for transformation.

In 2015 thousands of civil society activists journeyed to Paris for COP21 where a UN agreement was made to limit levels of global warming to less than 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Since that time global temperature has continued to rise, negative impacts have been felt across the globe and public consciousness has been shaken.

With the aim of implementing guidelines for Article 6 of the Paris Agreement – guidelines that focus on the ‘cooperative approaches’ to tackling climate change – will COP26 meet the major challenge of our time? Will it adequately address the social, environmental and economic roots of climate change? Or will it merely seek to decarbonise an economy without addressing the social, ecological and economic injustices that climate change brings to light?

The Pilgrimage for COP26 is being organised to reflect on these questions and discern a way forward. Just as streams flow together to form a river, the Pilgrimage for COP26 will increase its flow as the journey develops. Individuals, communities and cultural organisations are collaborating to bring their concerns, imagination and resources to bear to shape the pilgrimage and articulate its vision.

In addition to other voices, artists, art organisations and faith communities have a key role to play in engaging the public in a value-based conversation around the climate and ecological crisis. To that end the Pilgrimage for COP26 offers a forum to gather and share a collective vision and to sustain engagement beyond COP26.

The route:

For ease of access the route follows two well-trodden pathways: The John Muir Way from Dunbar to Kirkintilloch and St Ninian’s Way from Kirkintilloch to Glasgow.

Note: The Pilgrimage for COP26 route map and cultural programme will be made available for download and distribution by early August.

Daily distances and overnight destinations are still being researched but a significant ‘way station’ will be established in Edinburgh (from the 22nd-24th October) where the Pilgrimage for COP26 will have its capital launch. The launch will be bookended by a welcoming ceremony in Glasgow, after which pilgrims will be encouraged to engage with the COP26 Coalition events programme.

Cultural programme and partners:

En route interpretation and peer-learning will be provided by an emerging community of peer-educators. These include arts and cultural organisations, interfaith communities, educational institutions, and grass roots community activists.

While the programme is still being developed – and remains open to other partners – we can currently confirm the following partners and engagement activities.

Ceilidh Collective: Online global ceilidh to launch the COP26 Coalition programme and contribute material to accompany the Pilgrimage for COP26.

COP26 Coalition: Various activities organised in the run-up to and throughout COP26.

Deep Time Walk Project: Developing ecological content related to deep time to assist interpretative engagement en route.

Eco Art Scotland: Promoting the pilgrimage within the eco art network and developing follow-up activities to support an emerging community of cultural adaptation.

Eco-Congregations Scotland: Encouraging churches to offer hospitality, sharing stories of social and ecological change from organisations en route.

Extinction Rebellion Edinburgh (Art Group and Choir): Sharing creative inspiration and offering support en route. (Note: no additional XR action is planned as part of the pilgrimage.)

Interfaith Edinburgh, Glasgow and Scotland: Offering insights from different faith traditions and organising key aspects of the Edinburgh launch and Glasgow welcoming ceremony.

John Muir’s Birthplace: Liaising with the wider John Muir network and developing learning content for the journey.

Protest in Harmony: Collaborating with other radical singers and singing groups around the world to learn songs by environmental activists and to share these songs as part of the pilgrimage.

North Light Arts: Lighting the first beacon and co-curating the first three days of the walk from Dunbar to Edinburgh.

Scottish Dance Theatre: Joining pilgrims at keys stages on the walk and contributing content for the journey (live and online).

Scottish Episcopal Church (represented by St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh): Offering hospitality in Edinburgh and developing material – including choral music – for the capital launch.

Sharing Not Hoarding: Billboard exhibitions in Dundee and Glasgow depicting pilgrims walking with enlightened teachers – both human and the more-than-human.

Society of Friends (Quakers in Scotland): Offering hospitality in Edinburgh and Glasgow and developing learning content for the journey.

Stitches for Survival: Offering craftivist engagement before, during and after the pilgrimage.

In addition to the above there are many unaffiliated individuals who will be walking with and supporting the Pilgrimage for COP26.

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