Risky Cities: Living with Water in an Uncertain Future Climate

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hull
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

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

N/A
 
Title FloodLights 
Description FloodLights was a co-created artistic project consisting of three light and sound installations, a digital programme, community parade, round table discussion and launch event taking place in Hull City Centre in Oct 2021. Absolutely Cultured, the University of Hull, the Living with Water Partnership and Yorkshire Water worked with artists to explore and represent Hull communities' experiences of living with water, past, present and future. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact See partnership entry for indicative evidence here. 
URL https://riskycities.hull.ac.uk/floodlights/
 
Title Flow of Words sharing events 
Description Artists were commissioned to creatively respond to the writing outputs from workshops held in the city. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact Evaluation for this is ongoing 
 
Title Follow the Thread exhibition 
Description collection of digitised textiles produced for the Follow the Thread exhibition 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact Evaluation of the exhibition is ongoing. 
 
Title On the Edge: the NYT & University of Hull at COP26 
Description On the Edge was a co-created theatrical intervention by the National Youth Theatre and University of Hull, performed at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. It included a new commission, created by Adeola Yemitan, who graduated from our NYT REP Company in 2020 and a climate cabaret curated by NYT Associate Artist and award-winning writer Tatty Hennessy. It formed part of MELT, a multi year collaboration between National Youth Theatre, academics from the University of Hull and an advisory panel of experts from the sustainable energy industry. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Live performance at COP, live stream and recorded film (available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5rqFiLAF9s&t=2s) 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5rqFiLAF9s&t=2s
 
Title Podcast titled 'Cop26: Anxiety, Anger & Care' 
Description Contribution by Dr Kate Smith to the Language and Power Podcast discussing 'On the Edge' and our work with the National Youth Theatre at COP26 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact Not yet evident 
URL https://languagepowerpodcast.org/series1/tw6cpd1115y9f18pgkm3xxr4s3rgm2-njtmb-7jtft-xht5h-n9szm-8lp2...
 
Description The project only started 1st August (funding outcome: mid July) and we've all been juggling increased Covid workloads since. Progress so far • Preliminary work on archival collections and printed sources for WP1 • Preliminary work on literary works for WP2 • Co-creative practice with Arts partner Absolutely Cultured leading to our first performance event currently scheduled for autumn 2021 (a light and projection show in Hull city centre, delayed from Nov 2020 to March 2021 to autumn 2021) • Establishing new collaborative relationships with Arts partners not previously involved in the project (ie. Freedom Festival) • Initial creative work and planning on schools outreach project • PI has presented at several conferences, policy events and seminar opportunities eg. Waterline 2020; Welsh Assembly climate seminar series; Flood Innovation Centre workshops; University of Hull's Water Cultures seminar series Notable issues • Increased staff workloads as a result of Covid • All relevant archives are currently shut due to national and now local restrictions. The team mare focusing instead on research using printed primary sources available online or through the University library (ie. Victorian parish histories etc) • Schools and community groups are not currently in a position to allow team members or our Arts collaborators into venues to run our engagement programme. This has therefore been delayed, while we investigate Covid-secure options • R&D for the Melt project with partner National Youth Theatre has moved online; the planned residency has been put back to 2021 or later. As a result, the final performance is likely to be rescheduled from 2021 to 2022 • Absolutely Cultured light show and projection piece is currently scheduled for March 2021, but may yet be pushed back to Nov 2021 due to Covid restrictions. Planning for the event, associated online panel session and M&E work continues for now.
First Year Of Impact 2020
 
Description Contribution to PostNote 647 (July 2021), Coastal Management
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://post.parliament.uk/research-briefings/post-pn-0647/
 
Description DCMS Inquiry - Cultural Placemaking and the Levelling Up Agenda EEI Report 2022 (Submitted February 18th)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to a national consultation/review
 
Description Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Centres
Amount £1,350,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2021 
End 09/2027
 
Description Absolutely Cultured & UOH 
Organisation Absolutely Cultured
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We worked with Absolutely Cultured, the Living with Water Partnership and Yorkshire Water to deliver a co-created, large-scale public arts project called 'FloodLights' in Hull city centre (October 2021). This consisted of three light and sound installations co-created with artists and exploring how Hull communities have and will live with water, past, present and future. The Risky Cities project contributed academic expertise, monitoring and evaluation to the co-created process. FloodLights attracted more than 11,000 visitors over three nights and ~470 responses to our evaluation survey, which demonstrated that arts engagement raised climate awareness and built flood resilience amongst diverse communities. To offer one data finding, more than 56% of visitors reported that attending the light and sound show made them think differently about climate change and its impacts on their communities. We also collected detailed data on the changes visitors reported they would make in relation to their own climate change behaviours.
Collaborator Contribution Creative production; coordination; funding
Impact 3 light and sound installations, a community parade, a digital programme and a round table discussion and launch event. These are archived here: https://www.absolutelycultured.co.uk/whats-on/past-projects/floodlights/
Start Year 2020
 
Description Freedom Festival 
Organisation Freedom Festival Arts Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution New collaborative partnership working to bring work delivering impacts related to Risky Cities to COP26 and the Freedom Festival.
Collaborator Contribution As above
Impact Funding bid to the British Council
Start Year 2020
 
Description National Youth Theatre/UOH @ COP26 
Organisation National Youth Theatre of Great Britain
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution In our 2021 Research Fish return, we reported our developing partnership looking to bring a new NYT/University of Hull (Risky Cities) production 'On the Edge' to COP26. Risky Cities will consult on the research and development and NYT lead on the performative and digital elements. In our 2022 Research Fish return, we reported that the partnership with the National Youth Theatre had delivered a major theatrical intervention in the COP26 Green Zone in Glasgow (Nov 2021). 'On the Edge' was a co-created exploration of the experiences and anxieties of young people from estuarine and coastal communities in the face of an uncertain future climate, specifically sea level rise and coastal retreat. The 90-minute performance include a new newly commission play written by Adeola Yemitan and co-created with the NYT cast and the Risky Cities team; a 'climate caberet' including music, spoken word, a magic act, and film; plus a Q&A discussion featuring Paul Roseby (NYT Creative Director), Adeola Yemitan (writer) and Prof. Briony McDonagh. The performance was devised on a 8 week timeline in technically difficult circumstances, but was a huge success. It attracted national media coverage as well as an online audience of more than 2600.
Collaborator Contribution A developing partnership looking to bring a new NYT/University of Hull (Risky Cities) production 'On the Edge' to COP26. Risky Cities will consult on the research and development and NYT lead on the performative and digital elements.
Impact Bid for performance space at COP26 (successful); two funding bids - to British Council (unsuccesful) and UK Climate Resilience Programme (successful); livestream and archived film of the performance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5rqFiLAF9s&t=2s)
Start Year 2020
 
Description 'Zine making workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Participants in previous workshops were invited to respond to the outputs of those workshops to create artwork for a 'zine to be distributed through the city in 2023.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Creative Writing workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Creative writing workshops held around the city, responding to the work done on the literatures of flooding from Hull's past. Participants work formed the basis for later performance events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Flood Resilience Centre workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Members of the Risky Cities team (Briony McDonagh, Gill Hughes, Stuart McLelland) have been involved workshops organised by the Flood Resilience Centre which engage regional businesses, industries, community groups and charities in innovation that will drive flood resilience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description Flood of Words 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'A Flood of Words!' Creative writing session for primary school-age children inspired by flood facts from Hull's history. Big Malarkey Children's Festival (East Park, Hull). June 2021.
Approximately 15 primary school-aged children and their families attended this festival event featuring a theatrical performance integrating flood facts from Hull's 800-year long history ('True or Poo!') and a creative writing activity using flood words to inspire acrostic poetry. Audience members contributed their creative writing as outputs and commented that the event had deepened their understanding and awareness of Hull's vulnerability to flooding.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://thebigmalarkeyfestival.com/whats-on/#1491819281824-148b7437-c700
 
Description Flow of Words sharing events/performances 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Artists from the area were commissioned to respond to the creative writing workshop outputs, presenting their work at two performance/sharing events in the city in November 2022. Evaluation for this is ongoing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Follow the Thread exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Artefacts created during textile workshops were mounted and displayed at at touring exhibition around Hull. Evaluation for this exhibition is ongoing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Guest lecture FRM 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Guest lecture as part of the University of Hull's Msc for Flood Risk Management which discussed the role of the Risky Cities project in building local community flood resilience through historically informed arts engagement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Humber Histories and Futures: a blog series 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An 11-part blog series launched in July 2021 as part of the University of Hull Alumni Olympic Challenge (#HumberWalk21) and imaginatively set along the Humber Estuary and exploring living with water in a changing climate. Together, we traversed the sticky interface between land and water, those 'unfast' lands which were neither wholly dry nor completely wet, yet we've - thankfully - never quite got stuck in the mud. Along the way, we heard from physical and human geographers, marine biologists and environmental scientists, English scholars and climate experts, social scientists and educators. Together, they took us on a journey along the flood banks and across creeks of the northern Humber shore, through mud and marshes, past the city of Hull and eastwards, ever eastwards towards the North Sea and the slim spit of land that projects out into it - Spurn.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://riskycities.hull.ac.uk/humber-histories-and-futures-one/
 
Description Presentation at the Humber Maritime Network Conference on the FLoodlights installation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation at the Humber Maritime Network Conference which discussed the Floodlights installation and the role of arts and heritage in shaping local identity and flood awareness
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Risky Cities website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public facing website for the Risky Cities project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021,2022
URL https://riskycities.hull.ac.uk/
 
Description Textile workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Textile workshops responding to archival discoveries and flood histories uncovered in work package 1 of the Risky Cities project, evaluation ongoing but initial feedback suggests extremely positive engagement with members of the public who reported increased awareness of changing flood risk and more engagement with flood resilient behaviours.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description UK Climate Resilience Programme showcase 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact University of Hull and Risky Cities hosted the UK Climate Resilience Programme showcase in Hull in October 2022. Delegates attended workshops, film showings and panel discussions sharing best practice approaches for working with and engaging publics in climate resilience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description UPEN blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Blog by Risky Cities' Kate Smith and Briony McDonagh on the topic of:
The rewards of letting go: putting young people's voices centre-stage at COP26
In a ground-breaking Knowledge Exchange collaboration between academics and young creatives, researchers from the University of Hull have been working with the National Youth Theatre to create a powerful, site-specific response to the climate crisis for COP26. This blog outlines our engagement with the NYT, our learning from the experience and the policy impacts of our work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://upen.ac.uk/blogs/?action=story&id=250
 
Description Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission evidence hearing 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Prof Briony McDonagh gave evidence at the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission's Delivering Impact evidence hearing. She shared evidence and best practice from the Risky Cities project about using place-based, historically-informed, arts-led community engagement for building climate awareness, action and resilience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022