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Learning histories, participatory methods and creative engagement for climate resilience

McDonagh, Briony; Brookes, Ed; Smith, Kate; Worthen, Hannah; Coulthard, Thomas; Hughes, Gill; Mottram, Stewart; Skinner, Amy; Chamberlain, Jack


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Professor Briony McDonagh
Interim Director of the Energy and Environment Institute & Professor of Environmental Humanities

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Dr Stewart Mottram
Director of Research, School of Humanities, and Reader in English Literature

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Dr Amy Skinner
Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Practice

Jack Chamberlain


The potential of place-based, historically-informed approaches to drive climate action has not yet been adequately interrogated. Recent scholarly work has focussed on climate communication and the role of arts and humanities-led storytelling in engaging people in climate narratives. Far less has been said about mobilising arts and creativity to build anticipatory climate action. perNor have archival material and pre-twentieth century histories of living with water and flood been widely utilised in this endeavour. This paper reflects on our experiences delivering the UKRI-funded Risky Cities programme and specifically, of developing and utilising a learning histories approach that folds together past, present and future in productive ways so as to learn from the past and the present and rethink the future. Risky Cities uses this approach to develop engagement tools at different scales, evaluating their impact throughout using participant interviews, reflective focus groups, and surveys. Analysing this data, we consistently find that using learning histories as the foundation of arts-led and creative community engagement makes big narratives about global climate change locally meaningful. Crucially, this drives cognitive shifts, behavioural change and anticipatory action for both participants and audiences. Thus, our learning histories approach is an important participatory tool for building climate action, empowerment and resilience.


McDonagh, B., Brookes, E., Smith, K., Worthen, H., Coulthard, T., Hughes, G., …Chamberlain, J. (2023). Learning histories, participatory methods and creative engagement for climate resilience. Journal of Historical Geography, 82, 91-97.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 14, 2023
Online Publication Date Oct 18, 2023
Publication Date Oct 1, 2023
Deposit Date Sep 14, 2023
Publicly Available Date Oct 31, 2023
Journal Journal of Historical Geography
Print ISSN 0305-7488
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 82
Pages 91-97
Keywords Climate action; Flood histories; Flood resilience; Learning histories; Participatory methods; Public art; Performance; Community engagement
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