Risky Cities: Living with Water in an Uncertain Future Climate

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hull
Department Name: Geography


Estuarine and coastal cities are acutely vulnerable in the face of climate uncertainty. 40% of the world's population lives within 100km of the sea and coastal populations are directly at risk from rising sea levels and the combined effects of storm surges, fluvial flood risk and increased rainfall. Society needs greater resilience at the local, national and global scale: estuarine communities and businesses must learn to 'live with water' in an uncertain future. Yet engaging diverse communities with water challenges is a significant problem for agencies and governments, with the most vulnerable in societies often the least well informed about resilience actions. Here we bring innovative arts and heritage solutions to bear on the problem of engaging these communities with flood risk and building resilience in one flood-prone city, Kingston upon Hull, UK.

Hull is recognised globally for its vulnerability to flooding in the face of rising sea levels. It is one of five global cities selected to participate in the Rockefeller Foundation's and Arup's City Water Resilience Framework development programme. Yet international awareness of Hull's future flood risk finds little reflection in local communities. And this despite serious flood events in 2007, 2013 and 2015, as well as an 800-year history of living with water challenges in the city. Hull's excellent archival records and literary and dramatic works - combined with the University's expertise in flood science and modelling, environmental histories and literature, community engagement and cultural sector evaluation - offer unrivalled opportunities to explore histories of risk and resilience in the city and surrounding area.

In this project, we develop research-informed learning histories to build resilience for the future, with the ambition of leveraging a year-on-year improvement in resilience to flood risks and uptake of resilience actions in and around Hull. Working alongside arts partners and practitioners, flood agencies, young people and local communities - who will contribute to the co-production of research agendas as well as academic and policy-relevant outputs - we employ these learning histories in community-based arts and heritage interventions and large scale productions by national arts organisations including Absolutely Cultured and the National Youth Theatre (NYT). Supported by three artists in residence, our research addresses three thematic clusters of questions (specified in the Objectives and CFS), and the research outcomes both inform and are in turn shaped by the engagement activities planned for the project. The substantial collaborations agreed with project partners leverage significant wider reach for our ambitious arts and heritage programme (see PTIs). Using a combination of social science methodologies and participatory tools for arts evaluation co-designed with community and youth groups, we interrogate the effectiveness of arts and heritage interventions to raise climate awareness and deliver an uptake in practical resilience actions, evaluating models for engagement and developing best practice that can be applied nationally and globally. In doing so, we aim to improve climate change awareness and flood resilience in risky cities in the UK and beyond.

Outputs from the project include: a programme of combined arts and heritage engagement in schools, community and youth groups in 'at risk' wards; a flood festival; high profile, city centre artistic productions informed by our learning histories and created by community and youth groups in collaboration with national arts organisations, the NYT and Absolutely Cultured; a sound walk; articles in major international and interdisciplinary journals, some of them co-authored with arts practitioners and community members; a policy report and associated public policy brief launched at Westminster; a short film; a workshop; and a public facing website hosting podcasts, blogs and teaching materials.

Planned Impact



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