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?
With my son passing away I experienced days and nights of tears. Knife crime has always been a concern for me, as 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 outdoors 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 the inner city living, and to encourage solidarity and unity within the black community.
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 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.
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. 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, new 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. 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. 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.
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.
What’s next for WGOT?
Our goal is to visit more green spaces and create individual experiences as well as educating our community on environmental issues that especially the younger generations can gain from. We will continue to explore and connect with nature.
Follow them on Instagram @wegooutsidetoo!
Support WGOT and donate here.
Direction / Casting by Document Studios
Photography by Mads Perch
Styling by David Hellqvist
Photo Assistant Rory Ronnie
HMU Artist Amie Joan
Models Marlon Patrice and Leah Bennett