Weathering the storm: TEMPEST and engagement with the national weather memory

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Sch of Histories, Lanuages and Cultures

Abstract

Knowledge of climate change has tended to remain in the scientific realm. Yet it is not only advances in science but local observations and experiences in nature and oral histories that can prove useful in helping to conceptualise and understand how weather and its variations affect and have affected people at the local level. Local, lay or 'experiential' weather is assuming new importance as a legitimate source of knowledge, and communication of climate change risk is thought to be more effective and appropriately targeted if it takes into account these relevant personal and vicarious experiences in the form of narrative, memories and anecdotes. One way to achieve a (re)engagement of people with climate is by inviting them to reflect on their local weather (past and present). Our proposed follow-on activity will be organised around the theme of weather memory and will capitalise on opportunities that have emerged from the original Care for the Future funded project. We will use the research material now gathered in the TEMPEST database (c. 18,000 event records) i) to develop the design of user interface on TEMPEST and produce a short tutorial/demonstration video, ii) to write a series of place-specific historical weather stories and collate these in the form of a research guide, iii) to support the development of a 'tour ready' version of 'The Storm Officer'. Each output is public-facing and will be widely circulated in print/ on line using existing project communication channels, those of the Archives and Records Association, and at the public events that lie at the heart of this follow-on activity. The overall aim is to demonstrate TEMPEST's utility among a range of users and to engage people with local weather memory and heritage. Through a formal partnership with the Archives and Records Association and return visits to a number of the Local Government Record Offices (LGROs) and National Collections from which we have drawn both materials and research advice, we hope to inform staff and archive users of our findings and to highlight the utility of their collections for weather history, identifying possible actions for future cataloguing and collecting practice and volunteer-led projects. The place-specific story guide will be available for the LGROs to use and will be designed to enable and encourage each archival repository to identify new connections with other collections and archival repositories within and across regions.
The research team will also work alongside poet and writer Matt Black and his creative team to develop a 'tour ready' version of 'The Storm Officer'. Matt's first play was inspired by the contents of the TEMPEST database and previewed in March 2017. Five new performances (all free to attend) will be staged during the period of the follow-on. The locations for the performances have been chosen to match those where rich documentary weather heritages have already been explored by the project team. Each will involve direct engagement with weather histories specific to the place of performance, drawing on the research material already collected by the researchers and now held in the TEMPEST database. Live performances will be enriched through researcher led pre-show workshops that will focus on the archival materials available for weather history in that particular place (using the place-specific weather stories and video as starting points), as well as recent experiences of extreme weather. Connections will also be made between the performance and the relevant LGRO and their resources, with staff and volunteers from the LGRO invited to participate in the workshop and attend the performance.
Each element of the Follow-on activity involves creative engagement with non-academic audiences and user communities to stimulate new pathways to impact for the original research, and will expand the utility of research output for a range of new audiences, adding significant value to previous activity.

Planned Impact

TEMPEST has wide utility for academics from a range of disciplines and practitioners (e.g. Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales) but we anticipate that members of the general public with interests in weather will be the primary users. By engaging and exchanging knowledge with the NMLA, NLW, and LGROs we hope to publicise TEMPEST to a range of potential users (local and family history groups, volunteers and actual and online visitors). Through performances of 'The Storm Officer' we will broaden awareness of UK extreme weather history, reinvigorating collective and inter-generational memory and equipping the audience with the information needed to place current weather in appropriate temporal and geographical contexts. We anticipate this will also inspire further research, investigation and learning.
The proposed follow-on activities are being conducted in partnership with the Archives and Records Association (ARA), the professional body for archives and records managers. This partnership will allow us to reach the entirety of the Country Research Archive Network (CARN). The ARA will also support our planned workshops at selected LGROs (Derbyshire, Norfolk and Hereford) and the National Meteorological Library and Archive and the National Library of Wales. We will disseminate resources and information (the TEMPEST video and place-specific weather stories research guide) using the different communication channels of the ARA in order to engage with a broad audience. We will introduce the research to their membership through a short 'Opening Lines' piece within their monthly magazine which is distributed to all member organisations (May 2017). This details TEMPEST as a 'special repository' and outlines it's relevance to keepers of archives and records in the UK. A link to our publication in the Archives and Records journal provides further detail on our research to date. The ARA run regional training events for their members. We will attend one of these to raise awareness of our research and the potential of the holdings of LGROs for weather and environmental history more broadly, alongside discussion of cataloguing, collecting and project practice. ARA also jointly deliver the annual 'Explore Your Archive' campaign (www.exploreyourarchive.org) with the National Archives, which aims 'to increase public awareness of the essential role of archives in our society, to celebrate our network of collections and emphasise the skills and professionalism of the sector'. Weather is a connecting theme and one we will look to promote during the campaign through our work with individual local government records offices. The ARA acts as the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History, an advocacy group for the archives sector, history and related issues, including history in education. This also promotes a history lecture series in Parliament to which the applicants hope to contribute.
Archival repositories local to each of the new performance venues (Derbyshire, Norfolk, and Hereford Local Government Record Offices, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, and the National Meteorological Library and Archive in Exeter) support the initiative, while through Matt Black we will work in conjunction with Live and Local and the Community Touring Scheme and Arts out West who will provide access to a range of venue possibilties to stage the play in locations close to those selected for the public workshops. Both these rural touring companies supported the previews of The Storm Officer in March 2017 and the follow-on activity develops these connections further. Other performance locations/networks have pledged support (Aberystwyth Arts). 'The Storm Officer' and supporting research workshops will be promoted by each venue and we will work to ensure the performances feature in local listings in paper and online. We will also work with our University Press Offices and the AHRC Press Office to publicise the events.

Publications

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