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The project will have a lasting legacy in terms of changing attitudes and knowledge, and will result in a film of the drama production. Image courtesy SAFE Kenya.

Flood prone communities in UK and Africa to share their stories through theatre

An ambitious project exploring the shared experiences of flood-hit and vulnerable communities in Cornwall and Kenya has been announced today, with the aim of building resilience for those affected by climate change and extreme weather events.

The project is being led by Professor Katrina Brown of the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, whose work focuses on how different people are able to cope with, respond and potentially transform their lives as a result of changes and shocks.

Using an established type of participatory drama called Forum Theatre, a performance derived from people’s experiences of storms and flooding in coastal communities in Kenya will be developed.

The production will then move to the UK and work with coastal communities in Cornwall who have experienced similar events in order to find parallels and draw policy lessons.

The €300,000 project is being funded by the AXA Research Fund under their “Outlooks” programme, and will be working with the charity SAFE Kenya.

Professor Brown said: “It’s wonderful that AXA has funded this project. Drama is a really powerful medium that can engage people with the world around them and communicate across cultures – in terms of different communities, disciplines and professions. Forum Theatre involves the audience in a very active way, and helps them to identify causes and find solutions to their problems.

"In our project, the multiple risks of extreme weather events and longer-term climate change and the shared experiences of coping and building resilience will be the core of a drama production. My hope is that working with SAFE Kenya on this project will foster cross-cultural learning and also trigger re-assessment of common assumptions by scientists and professional risk analysts.”

Entitled ‘You, Me and Our Resilience: Cross-cultural insights on Resilience, Poverty and Climate Change,’ the project will span 33 months and, as well as having a lasting legacy in terms of changing attitudes and knowledge, will result in a film of the drama production. This will be used as research material, to identify new topics for investigation and as a means of directly inputting the voices of the poor into government, NGO and insurance industry policy.

As the project develops, details of work in progress, short films and theatre performances will be featured on the website:

The ESI is working with businesses and enterprises across all sectors of the economy in Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and beyond to translate research and expertise into innovative business practices, products and services in order to respond to the challenges of environmental change. It has been funded by the ERDF Convergence Programme (£22.9M) and the South West Regional Development Agency (£6.6M), with significant support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Date: 4 April 2014