news

11.03.14

VA partners in Stories of Change project

£1.5M community research project to reignite energy debate

Visiting Arts is partnering on a new three-year research project led by The Open University which will challenge the terms of public debates about energy issues. “Stories of Change: Exploring energy and community in the past, present and future” has received nearly £1.5million in funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to examine areas of conflict and make space for more diverse voices.  The project will explore energy choices through an innovative mix of social science and humanities research, digital storytelling, short films, and other creative work; and will be generating a publicly-accessible collection of stories.

Dr Joe Smith, lead researcher and Senior Lecturer in Environment at The Open University said: “At the heart of the Government’s Climate Change Act of 2008 is a cross-party commitment to cutting carbon emissions. However, research shows that many people feel disengaged from or even hostile towards the changes needed to meet the UK’s carbon reduction targets. Public and political conversations about energy have stalled and we aim to return some momentum by looking in a fresh way at its past, present and future.”

The project will uncover accounts of the relationship between energy, industry and landscape in the English Midlands; it will see how energy resources such as coal and wind have shaped life in South Wales; and it will also bring together existing communities of interest around energy policy.

Dr Joe Smith continued: “We are working to discover and create stories because they offer a popular and engaging route into thinking about possible energy futures. Everybody can gather around stories. We are finding that they help to connect researchers, artists and communities.”

The interdisciplinary project team also includes researchers from the Universities of Sheffield, South Wales, Birmingham, Bath and Exeter and the arts organisations TippingPoint and Visiting Arts. The project is rooted in a body of ambitious partnerships, including government departments, business, NGOs, museums and community groups. Creative partners include a mix of poets, filmmakers, theatre makers, writers and artists. All of them are experienced in helping to give voice to people and/or things that are often unheard.

The project is funded as part of the AHRC’s Connected Communities programme, designed to help us understand the changing nature of communities in their historical and cultural contexts and the role of communities in sustaining and enhancing our quality of life. 

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