Professor Mike Wilson, Dr Antonia Liguori and Dr Lyndsey Bakewell (DRY Project team members from Loughborough University) have been awarded funding from AHRC Connected Communities to create a new, performative methodology, based on traditional practices, to support communities in collective problem-solving and imagining their own secure futures.
The traditional Sardinian form of ‘La Rasgioni’ (The Reasons) will be re-imagined and framed as performative event to allow the community to expose and address the conflicting perspectives, interests and priorities around drought and water scarcity in the Bevills Leam catchment, in rural Cambridgeshire.
This project idea has been developed thanks to an ongoing conversation with the research team of CADWAGO (http://www.cadwago.net/), an international collaborative research project, led by the Stockholm Environment Institute, looking at climate adaptation and water governance. In October 2015, Professor Wilson was invited to attend the final project workshop in Sardinia, where he was present at a demonstration of ‘La Rasgioni’ (‘The Reasons’), a traditional conflict resolution tool used in the region of Gallura until the early 1960s. And it is from this that this project takes further inspiration.
‘The Reasons in the Fens‘ takes the form of a mock court, presided over by a community elder with other community members playing the part of the jury. In turn, various stakeholders (including the National Farmers Union, the Great Fen Project, environmental organisations, angling groups, water companies, etc.) are invited to tell their stories and may be questioned for clarification by either the jury or the general public, who are gathered as the audience. After all the stories have been told, everyone (judge, jury, witnesses and general public) retire to enjoy a communal meal, before returning to the hall, where the jury delivers its verdict, for which the judge then provides an ‘Azdakian’ interpretation (cf, Bertolt Brecht’s Der Kaukasische Kreidekreis), combining vernacular wisdom with a healthy disregard for traditional power structures to provide a resolution that unites, rather than divides the community.
The event is both ritual and celebration, but is ultimately a forum for public storytelling which enables communities to collectively imagine their future.
The project ‘The Reasons in the Bevills Leam catchment‘ consists in a three-stage process, with a constant involvement of academic partners at the Stockholm Environment Institute (at the Universities of York and Uppsala, Sweden) and a number of community partners.
The first stage will involve engagement with local stakeholders on DRY’s Local Advisory Group for Bevills Leam to discuss and develop the idea of ‘The Reasons’ and to identify potential participants/storytellers to take part in the main event. These may include, for example, local farmers, small businesses, representatives of other user groups, representatives of water companies, conservation groups, government agencies (such as the Environment Agency) and the leisure/tourist industry, in order to capture as wide a range of perspectives as possible. This will be followed by the recruitment of participants (including a local figure to act as ‘judge’), and a series of workshops to plan the detail of the event with stakeholders and participants, brief and rehearse participants and to prepare the ‘jury’ for their role. As part of the work with local schools we will also work with teachers to enable the children to form a deeper understanding of the local context and the complexities of water dilemmas.
This stage will culminate in a public performance of ‘The Reasons’ in a local venue at the beginning of June.
The second stage will be the preparation for and involvement in The Utopia Fair in June 2016.
The third stage will seek to build upon the experiences of both the initial performance of ‘The Reasons’ and participation in The Utopia Fair to work with our collaborators to stage another ‘The Reasons’ event in Cambridgeshire in the autumn, partnering with the NFU. This would give us an opportunity to further refine the methodology and to significantly enhance potential impact through engagement with a wider set of stakeholders.
Watch the video La ‘Rasgioni’: Conflict Resolution and Water Dilemmas