A £330,000 project to help communities become more flood resilient, using the arts and heritage, is being led by the University of Hull.
Titled ‘Risky Cities: Living with Water in an Uncertain Future Climate,’ the main aim of the initiative is to encourage residents to take action to better protect their homes from flooding.
The terrible consequences of flooding have been well-documented in Hull in recent times. In 2007, over 9,000 homes and businesses were affected by a flood event which devastated the city.
More recently in 2013, a storm surge in the Humber Estuary caused flooding to over 400 properties across Hull and East Yorkshire.
Now, University experts from a variety of subjects – including environmental science, humanities and arts – have combined to secure £330,000 of funding to help the University make a stand against climate change.
Dr Briony McDonagh, Reader in Historical Geography and Lead for the Risky Cities project, said: “Time and time again, we see the heart-breaking impact of severe flood events on our communities.
“Flooding has the ability to devastate lives – and as the world continues to experience the impacts of climate change, these events will become more frequent, and more powerful.
“We need to act, and we need to act now. At the University of Hull, we have the expertise and knowledge to better prepare communities for flood events – to increase resilience and awareness of their consequences.
“Risky Cities is an exciting and unique project, using innovative arts and humanities approaches – including learning histories for flood-prone cities like Hull – to build climate awareness and flood resilience today and for the future.”
The Risky Cities project is funded by the AHRC and UK Climate Resilience Programme. It represents a £330,000 backing in the University’s flood expertise.
It has three key strands. The first will explore the history of flooding in Hull, examining how communities have learned to live with water over the past 800 years.
Secondly, Risky Cities will examine how flooding has been documented in centuries gone by, including that in literature and by famous poets including Andrew Marvell.
Finally, the project will explore opportunities to use arts and heritage to engage local communities, telling stories from the past which will raise and prompt action in relation to climate change and flood resilience.
Risky Cities will also build on existing University partnerships with major arts bodies, including Absolutely Cultured and the National Youth Theatre.
Professor Dan Parsons, Director at the Energy & Environment Institute, said: “This is a really exciting project. Our response as a society to the changing risk caused by global heating and climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge we have faced as humanity.
“Risky Cities is a truly interdisciplinary project that will bring together diverse expertise across the campus and draw on our strong strategic relationships with partners such as Living with Water and the National Youth Theatre in order to investigate the mosaiced layers of societal resilience and flood risk, and explore how we will adapt as a society to the impacts of our changing world.”
Hull and the surrounding Humber region has an 800-year history of flooding.
Around 90 per cent of the region lies below the high-tide line, making the Humber one of the most at-risk regions for flooding in the UK.
Recent devastating flooding has led to £42m of EU and UK Government investment in the region, creating both new and improved flood defence schemes.
It is hoped the findings of the Risky Cities project in Hull can then be taken to other coastal and estuarial cities across the country and beyond.
More details of the Risky Cities will be revealed by Dr McDonagh at October’s Waterline Summit.
Hosted by Marketing Humber, in partnership with the University of Hull and Yorkshire Water, the Summit will showcase the Humber region’s expertise in addressing the challenges of climate change and a low-carbon future, as it strives for an ambitious net-zero target of 2040.
[Phil Winter – University of Hull]