Project funder: UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Lead organisation: Professor Steve Bottoms, University of Manchester
Project duration: 18 months (until end of August 2013)
Project team / collaborators
Professor Lindsey McEwen, UWE, Bristol
- To apply the
critical/creative thinking of two recent AHRC networks in the
development of a performance research project that responds to
needs voiced by the Environment Agency (EA) for public engagement
around flood risk awareness in ‘hard-to-reach’ urban
- To further develop an
interdisciplinary collaboration between the Performance Footprint
network (‘Reflecting on Environmental Change through Site-Based
Performance’) and the Living Flood Histories network (‘Learning to
Live with Water: Flood Histories, Environmental Change, Remembrance
and Resilience’), thereby extending dialogues between
theatre/performance specialists, cultural and physical geographers
(including those with expertise in flood risk
- To further the investigation
of mutual concerns including: the potential value of situated
narratives within flood-threatened areas, for building local
awareness and resilience; the development of creative and
storytelling modes that materialise and focus attention on the
functions and unpredictability of water in inhabited
- To develop creative responses
to these sites by examining them through a number of contrasting
frames or lenses: as ‘physical-geographic’ spaces (composed by
particular land formations, water networks, types of flood risk
etc.); as ‘heritage’ spaces (revealing architectural legacies and
human histories of environmental impact); as ‘quotidian’ spaces
(displaying the patterns of everyday inhabitation); etc.
- To maximise public engagement
with the two case study projects by working directly with local
residents, as volunteer participants and performers, in a
‘bottom-up’ creative process that celebrates water/river/flood
knowledge and memories of the areas’ histories and everyday
dynamics. Through this process, to raise local awareness of both
immediate, pragmatic issues (such as flood prevention measures;
personal and community resilience planning), and of wider questions
around human relationships with water in the landscape (e.g. the
impact of urbanised landscapes on water quality, flow
- To identify and work with
other relevant stakeholder organisations in the selected sites,
including: city councils (especially flood plan managers); local
parish/community councils and residents’ associations or community
fora; river advocacy groups; National Flood Forum. Where
appropriate, to use performance as a means of ‘dramatising’ the
issues around distributed responsibility for flood risk management
and resilience to environmental change.
- To link and cross-reference
the two projects, as they develop, in order to identify strengths
and opportunities, common difficulties, and effective
methodological strategies for responding to them.
- To develop from these
experiences a set of guidelines for located practice that could
potentially be applied in other contexts.
- To disseminate these findings in both the academic community (through targeted conference presentations and journal articles) and beyond -- through the development of a summary report and action pack for stakeholders and potential future users.
This research project involves a partnership between two networks from the 2010/11 AHRC ‘Researching Environmental change’ programme. The ‘Performance Footprint’ network brings expertise in using site-specific performance to promote awareness of environmental change in diverse settings. The ‘Living Flood Histories’ network has explored how situated flood narrative and memorialisation practices can bring new insights in how to engage public groups, at changing flood risk.
This 12 month project (extended now to 16 months) responds to an invitation from the Environment Agency (EA) to explore how situated performance and flood narratives might be used to engage urban floodplain groups, at risk from flooding but without recent flood experience. Can creative participation be employed as a means for: developing and enhancing ‘a watery sense of place’; exploring uncertainty around future climate scenarios; understanding issues around ‘distributed responsibility’ for flood risk response?
This project aims to stimulate awareness of river/flood risk issues, and encourage local resilience-building, by researching and facilitating two inter-related, site-specific performance events, in direct collaboration with local floodplain groups. A key objective will be to use the process of working towards creative outcomes to help generate a context in which expert and local knowledges are equally valued.
The chosen sites in Bristol (Eastville) and Bradford (Shipley) feature heavily canalised watercourses partly hidden from public view. A model of ‘distributed performance’ is being pioneered, involving a range of interconnected presentations offered by various groups and individuals in different microsites within the floodplain vicinity. Responses to these events among residents are being sought, and the outcomes of the two projects cross-referred, in order to develop research findings.
Project outcomes are being captured and disseminated through:
- a guidance/action pack for potential future users
- a tool kit for engaging schools
- interdisciplinary research articles and presentations.
The research results will be of interest to a wide range of disciplines and professions: researchers in theatre/performance studies, physical and cultural geography, social history; professionals in flood risk management (Environment Agency, local authorities); and social engagement professionals.
Attention is being given to how the research can generate sustainable follow-through in the case study settings, and how the research outcomes are cascaded to other urban flood risk groups.