The Reasons in the Fens
As part of the Utopia 500 Festival Professor Mike Wilson, Dr Antonia Liguori and Dr Lyndsey Bakewell (DRY Project team members from Loughborough University) have created 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) has been 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 , 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 took 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.
‘There’s something in the water’. The Reasons: Community Stories and the Fens
The Reasons – Stories about water usage, drought and the future of the Fens.
Ramsey Rural Museum, 7th June 2016:
A River is a Snake by Sharron Kraus
Photographs from Ramsey Rural Museum, 7th June 2016