Right of Way: a play by a young carer walking the SW Coast path

Here at Access Cornwall we are pleased to share a guest blog from Beth Bowden, writer and producer of the play Right of Way which is showing at The Poly in Falmouth on Friday March 15th.

Beth is a young carer for her disabled mum. The play is based on her experience of walking the South West Coast path during the COVID pandemic. Here Beth shares the story of how the play came about and the themes that it explores.


a young woman looking pensive, standing in front of a projected image of herself on a large screen. in the projected image she is seen with her eyes closed with water patterns on her arms
Production shot by Lidia Crisafulli



I’m standing watching the sunrise at Charlestown Beach near St Austell in Cornwall, and something shifts. It’s November 2023, and I’ve been slowly walking sections of the South West Coast Path (SWCP), and writing our play Right of Way along the way… 


I made the decision to walk the SWCP back in April 2020, during the first COVID lockdown. My mum, who became chronically ill and disabled in my late teens, was vulnerable and together, we talked. We talked, amongst waves of grief and fear and anger, about the continuing lack of social provision for older and disabled people, and the failures and prejudice of the UK Government.  We also talked about the sea…and of one day hopefully sitting together by the shoreline. Most of the time, we talked about nothing else – it was a space for us to dream, to imagine, and a future world to hope for. For me and us, the sea, the water, the hills, and the coastline hold a very significant space for creativity, connection and conversation. 


I began my walk in North Devon – my feet driven forwards in an old muddy pair of walking boots and a borrowed map. At first, I felt feelings of sadness and anger bubble up – I railed at the injustice of benefit cuts, of the current political landscape, of the deaths of disabled people during the pandemic. With the water by my side, I wrote about grief, decreasing benefits, cultural stereotypes of disability, applying for PIP (Personal Independence Payments), and COVID isolation. I wrote and wrote and wrote, as the waves rolled in and my feet kept walking forwards. I often experience my best creativity and thinking in the meditative state I fall into about 5 miles into a walk! 

a young woman looking out to sea with the sun setting in the distance
Beth finding her inspiration


And then, by the time I reached Cornwall, a cloud began to lift. And suddenly, it’s November 2023, and I’m standing on the beach in Charlestown and I’m writing about joy – about pink and yellow sunsets, and ice buns, and the joy that can be found in walking. I felt lighter. I feel able to stretch out for the first time again – and Right of Way became about reclaiming space and landscapes – whether that’s the tree you can see from your bedroom window, or a cliff in North Devon. The narrative around disability and illness can too often be negative, but actually a large part of the show is about carving out space for rest, happiness and silliness. 



Right of Way


So, out of this experience came our play, RIGHT OF WAY. Starting in a bathtub, and ending with our audience in the performance space, it explores my journey – and how in times of extreme isolation, pain and grief, I return to the natural landscape, which has always offered me refuge, perspective and solace. 


During the performance, the stage is bathed in video projection images that I took during my walks, and it explores bodies moving through, between and against past, present and future SW landscapes. The aim is that the audience is transported from the dark performance space, and out into a specific SW landscape. To transport you to the perspective offered by wide-open fields, endless horizons and lapping waves I encountered on the journey…

A young woman lies on the stage, chalk lines of waves are loosely stencils around her body. water vessels of all size are all around
Production shot by Lidia Crisafulli


Accessibility is integral to our work – and performing in a space that feels as accessible to as many people as possible is important to us. We are touring with a number of accessibility offerings as part of this. For example, RIGHT OF WAY is captioned, with these captions integrated into our projection design. We are touring with a portable Quiet Space, so you have a space to decompress if you need. We are supplying extra materials, including a Sensory & Scene Breakdown, and a post show Wellbeing Pack. With our venue partners, we are offering free carer companion tickets. We hope to create a friendly performance space: House Lights will remain up during the show, we have a re-admittance anytime policy, and we are offering free PPE masks.


Infused by my lifelong experience of caring for both a parent and a sibling, the play I created during those walks wrestles with the anticipatory grief and pathways to joyfulness sometimes felt by many Young Carers. I hope to give a voice to my own experience of these complex emotions. In Devon alone there are an estimated 75,000+ adult Carers, and 2 – 3 young carers in every classroom. Ultimately, the play offers a joyful, determined message and a pathway through these things – like the South West Coast Path did for me.

A young woman sitting on the stage, chalk lines of waves are loosely stencils around her body. water vessels of all sizes are all around
Production shot by Lidia Crisafulli


Now, amidst the Covid Inquiry, we are touring the work to the South West, including Cornwall, returning to where it was made. We’d love to see you there! We’ll be out walking the path in Falmouth and straight into The Poly on 15th March.


RIGHT OF WAY is touring to The Poly in Falmouth on the 15 March at 7.30pm. Tickets are £14, with concession tickets available for £12, and free carer companion tickets available. Find out more and book your tickets by clicking here.


The Poly is a listed building and disabled access is limited, which means that some disabled people may not be able to attend the show. Please check The Poly’s website here for more information. We are working with other venues on our tour with additional access features, including:


We are also offering access to a free online creative community, ‘Coastal Creatives’, where more people can get involved with the project – especially those who might not be able to join RIGHT OF WAY on tour because of geographical, financial, or access barriers. With this network, we will foster a sense of community, help build your creative toolkit, and encourage you to make the most of your local paths and landscapes. Find out more by clicking here.





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