Peaks of Colour, a newly founded walking club created by Sheffield journalist and activist Evie Muir, providing a safe space for people of colour to access Sheffield’s green spaces.
Peaks of Colour was inspired by other outdoors organisations that are by and for POC, such as Black Girls Hike, Steppers, Muslim Hikers and Black Men Walking. As well as this, the group was inspired by the act of “radical self care”, created in response to the amount of research suggesting that spending time in the outdoors has huge benefits for both your physical and mental health. With the likes of only 1% of people with BAME backgrounds visiting UK natural parks, Peaks of Colour aims to remove some of the barriers preventing people of colour from accessing green spaces. The group provides “solidarity and safety, being around people who look like you ... people that can guarantee you’re safe - that is what people are looking for”.
Muir says Sheffield is the “perfect place” for Peaks of Colour: “we are one of the greenest cities in the country and we have the complete luxury and privilege of being on the Peak District’s doorstep. It's almost a case of, we have this at our disposal, let's utilize it, respect it, benefit from it and create a really nice relationship with nature. We are a city that routinely celebrates difference and community and I think the merging of the two, recognising the strengths of the city, creates a space that is beneficial to those communities”.
Ladybower Reservoir and Derwent Edge were part of Peaks of Colour’s first series of walks, but you can expect a range of other beautiful Sheffield greenspaces for a range of abilities for future walks, including Monsal trail; Kinder Scout, Stanwich Edge, and Froggat Edge. Accessibility is key for the group in many ways - more than creating a safe space for POC to access Sheffield’s greenspaces, the group can also accommodate walks for pushchairs and wheelchair users, as well as creating a fund to help walkers with any transport and equipment needs.
The creation of this safe space equates to “giving people permission - to relax, permission to take up space in a space that isn't or hasn’t traditionally been for us - to enjoy yourself, meet new people; permission to break boundaries; permission to have a break from the racism whilst also challenging the racism, just by simply existing. It boils down to permission to exist, [...] safely, calmly and happily”. As important as the creation of these groups are, Muir states that “Ultimately, Peaks of Colour shouldn't have to exist”. This is also a call for all of those who use outdoor spaces to do the anti-racism and racial justice work to create safe spaces for everyone to use. Since the group’s creation in June there has been a lot of positive reactions and people getting involved. However, it has also been met with some backlash from Peak District frequenters. Muir states the negative backlash “just proved our point…they are a reflection of the people we may encounter when we are outside, and it did just prove that these places are not safe for us”.
For those who might be interested in joining Peaks of Colour but might be feeling apprehensive, Muir says: “those apprehensions are valid… they are based on real life experiences that are simply facts. We are inclusive of every single person of colour, ethnicity, culture, faith and religion, background...if anyone finds themselves on the intersections of societal groups, we are inclusive of all sexualities, all genders and non, all abilities or physical health needs and mental health needs, of all ages. As a collective, we will advocate for anyone who is apprehensive, we will have the backs of anyone who is apprehensive. If anyone still is not convinced, my advice would simply be: give us a go”.
The Peaks of Colour are “essentially just a friendly bunch of people who like to walk”, with accessibility and self care at the forefront of what they do. If you are a person of colour interested in getting involved, you can find out more information on the Peaks of Colour Instagram and closed Facebook group. If you are an ally wanting to help, the donation fund is a way to help strengthen safe spaces such as these.
Written by Ciara Treacy, a placement student as part of the University of Sheffield’s ‘Transforming and Activating Places’ programme.
Peaks of Colour Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peaksofcolour/?hl=en
For POC, the closed Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/679751089647779/?ref=share
Donation fund: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/PeaksOfColour?locale.x=en_GB