Sustainable flood memories and the development of community resilience to future flood risk

A comparative study of three recently flooded communities.

Project Funder: ESRC

Lead Organisation: Professor Lindsey McEwen, UWE Bristol

Project Duration: 30 months (until 31 November 2013)

Project team/collaborators

  • Dr Owain Jones, University of Gloucestershire
  • Dr Joanne Garde-Hansen, University of Warwick
  • Dr Andrew Holmes, UWE Bristol

Project aims

This research aims to increase understanding of how sustainable flood memories, formed of folk memories of flooding, 'watery senses of place' and flood heritage and other local/informal/lay knowledges, so creating social learning opportunities in communities that increase resilience in the face of flood risk and episodic catastrophic flood events.

The research not only considers how sustainable flood memories help local resilience, but also how agencies can help support/enhance the development of flood memories/local knowledges in recently flooded communities as a part of the developing community resilience.

Project summary

This research is investigating the extent to which local communities who have a history of past extreme flooding events are better equipped practically and psychologically to cope during and after new flood events, and with the risk of future flood events, in the context of climate change and increased flood risk.

It is suspected that communities with a history of past flood events will have what might be termed a 'watery sense of place' - which incorporates flood risk as part of local character and even everyday heritage. This knowledge, which might be held in individual, family and community memories, and through a number of ways (stories, photographs, websites, physical markers in the landscape), may help people live with on-going and changing risk of flooding, and cope better in practical response terms when new (extreme) flood events occur.

To investigate these questions, the research is comparatively researching three differently composed and situated communities which experienced flooding in River Severn, Gloucestershire in July 2007.

The research is also investigating precisely how these three communities responded to the catastrophic 2007 flooding and if and how their memories of the 2007 flood are now being developed into individual, family and community memories that will help these communities better cope with future flood risk and flood events. Particular attention is being paid to how different forms of material culture might play a role in recording and disseminating folk memories of flooding, both past memories and the 2007 flood events.

Finally the research is considering how these types of developing memories of flooding and watery sense of place can be supported, developed and enhanced by both communities themselves, and agencies charged with the development of flood management and flood response policies.

Project outcomes

Project outputs started in the early stages of the project using participation in the stakeholder competency group, presentations at conferences, and information on the project's web pages, including a public blog. Academic outputs include interdisciplinary papers on flood memory and local knowledge in resilience building.

In dissemination for use/action, it is a key goal that change will occur as a result of use of the project's research outputs. This is being achieved through longitudinal engagement with a range of stakeholders in flood risk management, development of two integrated action packs for different stakeholders, presentations to academic/practitioner conferences, non-academic summaries and briefings, as well as working with key organisations like the National Flood Forum as partners.

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