cymerau emerging themes

Mon 09 Nov 2015 16:24:56 | 2 comments

Emerging Cymerau Themes/Issues:
work in progress- comments welcome- alex plows 9.11.15

Our ongoing analysis is informed by the cross case study list of ten key coding themes[1] developed out of Hydrocitizenship full team meetings   and subsequent cross- case study team discussion, and which are a baseline start point for Nvivo coding of data and outputs across the four case studies. Emerging themes are surfacing in an ‘organic’ manner from early public consultation events, and in ‘real time’ as artists and community participants co –create artistic content and reflect publicly on the process.


While it is essential not to pre emptively predict core themes, or indeed  to reify rich cultural content, some observations on emerging themes can be made, noting that “geography matters”; the Cymerau case study is by far and away the most “rural” of the 4 Hydrocitizenship case study sites. It is the only one with a coastline. Water shapes the landscape and affects the flow of relationalities  across and within it, human and non-human.


1) “Hydrocitizenship from Above?”

 The Cymerau key villages of Borth and TalyBont are both high risk flood (sea and river) sites and as such are the focus of associated hydro governance in the form of shoreline management plans and river basin catchment and flood management strategies. The dynamics set in motion by those responsible for strategic policy (eg, sea defences to enable the “hold the line” policy at Borth), and how, why and in what circumstances these interface with communities/citizens/stakeholders, and indeed with the landscape itself, is of key thematic interest, and is being explored both through the choice of commissioned artists and the findings which are “bubbling up to the surface”, ie:

-“Reflecting on the way the beach has changed with the new stone groins and the effect of this on residents and visitors to Borth and the way they interact with the beach now”

(public feedback following Cymerau launch event, June 2015)


-“I wrote a song called Beach Works when the last batch of "coastal improvement" started, a couple of years ago, in Borth…”

(artist, Hydrocitizens community website, Summer 2015 )


In Talybont, which suffered major flooding in 2012, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has worked with local residents:

Villagers forced to flee their homes in Ceredigion following torrential rain have put a flood plan to the test in an emergency exercise. Natural Resources Wales (NRW)…said it would work with the volunteers to identify areas where the flood plan could be strengthened…. (BBC news online 23.11.2013) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-mid-wales-25058075

It will be interesting to see how such “hydrocitizenship from above” is expressed, commented on, through the ongoing Cymerau artist/community projects over the coming year.


2) Immersion In the Waterscape: “Going with the Flow?”

A strong affinity to place is evident and there is rich expression of this emerging through the creative/participatory engagement processes. A tentative observation: Perhaps more than the other case study sites, here in this rural case study and living with environmental change (flood risk) in a very direct way, local communities  have more of a tendency to think about how they are being directly shaped by natural processes, than communities in the  three urban case studies. Indeed people here perhaps feel so “immersed” in their watery environment that this may well be a “taken for granted” norm; this public feedback comment following the launch event is one of several similar   comments which were made in feedback about the Hydrocitizenship/Cymerau project:

 Raising awareness of water is a good idea but Borth seems a strange place to do it, everyone who lives here is constantly aware of water, we could get washed away at any moment…”

(public feedback following Cymerau launch event, June 2015)


Key themes of “risk and resilience” are clearly relevant to this theme of  how people feel shaped by their “watery” landscape or waterscape; a sense of ‘going with the flow’, living with change, with the transmutability of landscape (the changing shoreline, erosion); many such reflections have already been recorded:

"people must be prepared to change and move on....nothing stays the same"

(local Borth resident in interview for “water, water everywhere” project,  artist Esther Tew: http://www.hydrocitizens.com/videos/2501306


This “going with the flow” is not a passive quality and co  exists with the ways in which different community members, stakeholders, seek to shape their “waterscape” and mediate or mitigate its (anticipated, actual) impacts and in what contexts; this relates back to the  Hydrocitizenship from above” theme.

[1] These are : 1. Power (includes: governance/ access & management/ dissent);2. Participation/ non-participation; 3. Displacement (physical, social, economic, cultural);  4. Edges/ boundaries; 5. Risk ; 6. Resilience; 7. Values; 8. Practice as praxis (this is about how the artistic process is developing /expressing key themes); 9. Relationships; 10. Metaphorical language  



This is really helpful and well written, thanks Alex. In Borth, for instance, the sea is integral to its magnetic (for some) beauty of the place whilst also representing an existential threat. Either way its is defined by it's transience, and there is a particularly visual and prominent presence of 'time' enshrined in the landscape (petrified forest, the myth of Cantre'r Gwaelod, Bronze-age walkways exposed by recent extreme weather, several stages of sea-defence construction, the notion that it will be 'gone in 50-100 years...). I wonder whether in Borth a distinction could be made between generally high awareness of 'water' in this sense, and an awareness of different bodies of water, how they relate to each other, the village and a larger catchment. This means considering the river and bog as much as the sea. My nominal first impression is that the 'bog' (as Anne Marie Carty, Nick Jones and Dafydd Sills Jones have already alluded to) exists as an 'imaginary'. Very few people actually physically access this bog, compared to the many who walk, work, swim, play, surf, and fish by and in the sea. I think that it would be very interesting to separate out the bodies of water in the Borth and compare and contrast thoughts, knowledge and attachments to these. Also, consider that awareness of the threat or importance of water for humans is one thing, but what of the non-human? Biodiversity and ecosystem awareness/concern etc, and our sense of stewardship- or better still-citizenship in this particular area...I am guessing that this will be a huge priority for our community partners ecodyfi.
Interesting to see the themes that are emerging, many of which are shared on the river bank but some are evidently not i.e. risk and displacement have not arisen at all yet.
I think though that biodiversity and ecosystem awareness is more prevalent concerns with in our more rurally based project.



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