Planning DRY project’s participatory events in Cornwall: capturing narratives of drought, water scarcity and water use

Do you remember the last drought near where you live? Can you describe a few images that you have in your memories of previous droughts in this area?

These are some of the questions that will form our discussions in local workshops we are running in Cornwall from the beginning of June.

Figure 1: Map of catchment boundary for hydrological model.

Figure 1: Map of catchment boundary for hydrological model.

The catchment area of the river Fowey is where we will be trialling some innovative methods to investigate local knowledge about past drought experiences and to reflect on people’s perceptions about water scarcity and water use more widely.

Over the last couple of months we have been speaking with heritage and history groups in the area to find out about what kinds of images and archives exist that represent histories of the River Fowey and water use in the surrounding area, as well as impacts of previous droughts.

We will be bringing these historical images and other materials together at local community workshops we will be holding near the River Fowey over the summer. We will be inviting people along to see what we have found and to contribute their own memories and stories.

Our drought scientists (hydrologists) will participate in the local workshops and will demonstrate how they will predict different scenarios about water levels, water use and ways to manage water in the local area. They are looking for input from workshop participants into what kinds of factors might be incorporated into their systems.

In the first local digital storytelling workshop on Saturday the 6th of June, we will be inviting community groups and individuals to join us (please see the ‘contact us’ page to confirm your place). In the workshops, we will give participants the opportunity to record a short digital story (approximately. 2-3 minutes) based on the experiences, memories, and stories they share over the course of the day or from discussions and ideas developed at the workshop. As part of this process it will be helpful if participants bring any photos, images, newspaper articles or objects from home that help them to share their story.

Figure 2: Crowd at the entrance of the Royal Cornwall Show 2014 (photo

Figure 2: Crowd at the entrance of the Royal Cornwall Show 2014 (photo

You will also find us at the Royal Cornwall Show[i] the first weekend of June. We’ll be looking to chat with farmers and visitors to the show to start collecting narratives. We’ll use some ‘conversational storytelling techniques’ to help people to think about issues related to UK drought, water use and perceptions around climate change – you might end up writing a post card to a farmer to reassure him that you’ll buy his potatoes even if they have an uneven snowman shape from lack of water!

So what will happen to all these stories?

Over the course of the summer we are going to invite people from all different sectors of society (canal and river trusts, local communities, gardeners and allotment holders, construction industry, extractive industries, environmental, wildlife and public health organisations, as well as water supply companies) to tell their own stories about water scarcity and water use in the UK and listen to the different narratives to emerge. One of the aims of this ‘narrative work’ is to analyse the various perspectives and common ground across all these different experiences and points of view that can be found in individual stories. The result will be a local archive that will be shared online and in the Fowey river catchment. The archive will contribute to a resource that will be helpful for decision-making about water management issues. Please come along and help us develop our activities and ideas: You can contact us via the details on the contact page to find out more or confirm your place at a workshop.

by Liz Roberts – Research Associate on the DRY Project at University of the West of England
Antonia Liguori – Research Assistant in Applied Digital Storytelling at Loughborough University


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