Understanding our responses to environmental change

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Kenya to Cornwall – exploring community resilience to climate change.

Axa project groupAs part of our AXA Outlook project: You, Me and our Resilience, we were excited and fortunate to host an immensely rewarding visit of 8 actors from S.A.F.E Kenya, along with Founder and Director Nick Reding, to Cornwall in late September.

We had planned a busy itinerary for our S.A.F.E Kenya visitors who arrived in Cornwall in late September.  None of the S.A.F.E Kenya actors had ever travelled outside of east Africa but they fortunately brought with them some fantastic Kenyan sunshine, which enabled them to see Cornwall at its very autumnal best.

Work started on Sunday 27th September when the S.A.F.E Kenya team joined an invited audience of policy makers and stakeholders involved in coastal flood risk management and protection at a placed based production called Weather the Storm. This took place in Porthleven, which was severely impacted by the storms of 2014. Goldentree Productions, under the leadership of Natalia Eernstman, led in the development of Weather the Storm, with the production heavily influenced by stories and narratives gathered through the StormSongs project and interviews that the Goldentree team undertook with policy makers, land owners, fishers and members of the Porthleven community.

A short film of Weather the Storm can be found below.

The following week sought to expand and learn more about the similarities and differences as to how Kenyan and Cornish communities respond to risk and change identified through the very different Cornwall and Kenyan productions. We held a number of workshops with Kenyan and Cornish actors, researchers, students and wider stakeholders and whilst we are just starting to synthesis the outcomes and information gleaned throughout the exchange, all involved were surprised by the commonalities and similarities that face very different communities in building resilience to extreme weather.

IMG_5893IMG_5792It is also very clear from the activities the hugely impor  tant role and opportunity that participatory drama and cultural activities can play in helping communities deepen their understanding of complex issues and provide an engaging mechanism to help generate innovative solutions that drive positive social and environmental change.

Sharing, empathising, reflecting and better understand how people from different cultures engage with global issues is of vital importance in helping to identify new strategies to respond the complex challenges we face as a result of climate change and other intersecting changes and pressures.

As the rest of the week unfolded we planned a number of activities to introduce our  Kenyan partners exposure to environments, actives around sustainability and art in Cornwall and the southwest. We arranged on Thursday a fantastic visit to the Eden Project and met with their Creative Director, followed by a lively evening of dance and singing hosted by the Wreckers Morris Side.


On Friday we visited the twin villages of Cawsand and Kingsand in south east Cornwall, also severely impacted by 2014 storms, and with the help of local charity Rame Peninsula Beach Care, hosted a diverse community evening  with wider colleagues (Dr Matthew Witt and Dr Lucy Hawkes) and students (Stephanie Weeks) from the University of Exeter exploring both the You, Me and Our Resilience project but other fascinating topics including the growing problem of plastics in our seas and the IMG_6443outcomes of a post mortem of a Bluefin Tuna that washed up on the shores of Kingsand in 2015.

On Saturday we visited Plymouth and with thanks to the Theatre Royal and a tour of the theatre, and also to see the final production of The Whipping Man. After the show (with thanks to the Theatre Royal’s manager Alan Fox) we were able to meet IMG_6675The Whipping Man’s star actors.

As the week draw to a close the team left Cornwall heading back to London, but before leaving the UK, S.A.F.E Kenya we able to host a UK premier of their recently acclaimed film: Watatu. This provided a great opportunity for S.A.F.E Kenya to raise their UK profile and donations to support their ongoing work in Kenya. Watatu is a Kenyan production movie, conceived and produced by S.A.F.E Kenya, confronting radicalisation and terrorism in coastal Kenya, and was the only African film to be screened at the recent Rome Film Festival. Watatu is a fantastic exponent of S.A.F.E Kenya’s unique take on the power of forum theatre. Whilst not directly related to our project it was great to be able to use the opportunity of bringing S.A.F.E Kenya to the UK to support their wider work.

We very much look forward to the film that S.A.F.E Kenya will be producing capturing the activities and outcomes of their involvement with the You, Me and Our Resilience project. We hope that this will be ready early in 2016 and will offer an opportunity for S.A.F.E Kenya to expand the impact building socio-ecological resilience across Kenya’s communities.

The film ouputs from both S.A.F.E Kenya and Goldentree Productions will be invaluable tools helping to shape the final year of the projects work as we start to work more closely with wider resilience scholars, policy makers and the insurance sector.