The Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), based at the University of Gloucestershire, is leading a large multi-institute team which has won a large grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Connected Communities, Environments and Sustainability.
The full title of the project is “Towards hydrocitizenship. Connecting communities with and through responses to interdependent, multiple water issues”, and it aims to address intersecting social and environmental challenges through a range of interconnected water issues. The environmental focus will include issues as flood and drought risk, supply and waste system security, access to water as amenity and social (health) benefit, 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 very 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 project will run for 3 years as from March 2014 and the research will involve reviews of current work being undertaken elsewhere in a range of disciplines and international contexts as well as four large scale case-studies of community-water issues.
The case studies will be in Bristol, Lee Valley (London), Borth and Tal-y-bont (Mid Wales)and Shipley(Bradford) and each one will be conducted by a local team which includes members of the core academic team with artists, community activists and selected community partners which range from small community groups to larger organisations charged with aspects of regeneration and community resilience. There will also be exchange and comparative research conducted between the case study sites.
CCRI’s (University of Gloucestershire) Dr Owain Jones will be leading the project , and he said,
“This interdisciplinary project presents an exciting opportunity, bringing together people from different disciplines, such as performance studies, film-making, history and cultural geography, to work together to communicate environmental education and connect communities with and through responses to interdependent, multiple water issues such as flooding and supply security.”
The participating academic investigators/institutions are: Owain Jones (CCRI, University of Gloucestershire); 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); Graeme Evans (University of Middlesex); 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; 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 Centre 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 and the CCRI website www.ccri.ac.uk
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.