The project title is “Towards hydrocitizenship. Connecting communities with and through responses to interdependent, multiple water issues”. This new project has already been referred to in a recent Guardian article.
The project will run for 3 years starting in March 2014. As the title suggests, the focus is researching within, and working with, a range of communities to address intersecting social and environmental challenges through an application of arts and humanities approaches including performance and film making, visual art, design for social innovation, history and heritage, interactive and cultural mapping, etc. The environmental focus is on interconnected water issues, which include such issues as flood risk, drought risk, supply and waste system security, access to water as an amenity and social (health) benefit, waterside planning issues, and water-based biodiversity/landscape assets. Given recent, extreme storm surge and flooding incidents in the UK, as well as other pressing water issues, this research is particularly timely. The social focus will consider how communities are formed, and interconnected by, both environmental assets and risks, and consequent questions of social and ecological justice.
The research will involve reviews of current work being undertaken elsewhere in a range of disciplines and international contexts and also 4 large scale case studies of community-water issues. These case studies will be in Bristol, Lee Valley London, Borth and Tal-y-bont (Mid Wales), and Shipley (Bradford). Each case study will be conducted by a local team which includes academics, artists, community activists, and selected community partners ranging from small community groups to larger organisations charged with aspects of regeneration and community resilience - Middlesex will lead on the Lee Valley area case study. There will also be exchange and comparative research conducted between the case study sites. The leading, arts-based methodologies will be enhanced and supported by insights from related disciplines such as planning and design, physical geography, landscape/biodiversity studies, critical citizenship and community studies.
The other participating academic investigators/institutions are: Owain Jones (University of Gloucestershire, CCRI); Lindsey McEwen and Michael Buser (University of the West of England, Bristol); Stephen Bottoms (University of Manchester); Andrew Church (University of Brighton); Peter Coates (University of Bristol); Sara Penrhyn Jones (University of Aberystwyth); Alex Plows (University of Bangor); Maggie Roe (University of Newcastle).
Participating artists/art collectives/social activists are: Borth, Creu-Ad (Shelagh Hourahane); Bristol, Nova (Antony Lyons and Iain Biggs); Lee Valley (Simon Read and Lorraine Leeson, Middlesex University); Shipley, Canal Connections (Trevor Roberts).
Participating community partners are: Borth, Ecodyfi; Bristol, Brislington Community Partnership and Friends of the New Cut (FRANc); Lee Valley, London Legacy Development Corporation and Lee Valley Regional Park Authority; Shipley, Kirkgate Community Centre. There is also a wider community of national and local stakeholders. Details of these and project aims etc. will be posted on the project blog.
The seeds of the project were sown at a three-day AHRC research development workshop, held in May 2012, on the theme of Communities, Cultures, Environments and Sustainability. The workshop aim was to stimulate the development of innovative proposals for transformative, cross-disciplinary, community-engaged research with the potential to make a significant contribution to the ways diverse communities respond to the challenges posed by environmental change, support the transition of communities towards more sustainable ways of living and cultivate the development of sustainable environments, places and spaces in which community life can flourish. The workshop sought to foster cross-disciplinary and collaborative approaches by bringing together researchers from a wide range of disciplines and other experts from policy and practice communities. A key theme was the potential to engage with diverse cultural communities in all stages of the research.
To read more by Graeme visit his page on hydrocitizens.com