I spent much of the first two days of this week in the National Library of Wales in a symposium that was part of an exciting AHRC-funded research project called 'Troubled Waters, Stormy Futures: heritage in times of accelerated climate change'. 'Troubled Waters' is engaging with three locations that are dealing with coastal change of various sorts: Porthdinllaen (on the Llyn Peninsula in north-west Wales), the village of Durgan (in Cornwall), and Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean.
Project lead, the film-maker Sara Penrhyn Jones - along with her co-investigators elsewhere in the UK and in Australia - has brought together a fascinating mix of participants in order to 'develop deeper understandings and framings of heritage loss at a local level and international level, investigate how the impacts of climate change disrupt this heritage, and seek strategies for improved communication and consultation around these issues' (to quote the project's self-description).
My primary role on the project is to act as a mentor. However, I'm fortunate to have been able to participate directly, too; so I've been thinking about how artistic work - specifically poetry - can play a part in the way that cultures and communities deal with 'heritage loss'. My presentation at the symposium was called 'Poetry and the loss of place' and it gave me the chance to think again about the poetry of Ruth Bidgood - engaging, in this instance, with the way in which her work deals with places in Breconshire that suffered historic loss through depopulation or through the actions of afforestation. Whilst this is neither 'climate change poetry' nor coastal poetry, my hope was to explore one particular poetic engagement with place loss and to see what light it might shed on our broader discussions.
Putting such literary-critical thinking into a context where I was talking with colleagues from very different areas of work - experts from the third sector (specifically the National Trust), from climate advisory work (one of the collaborators on the project is the Climate Outreach Information Network), and from the scholarly discipline of heritage studies (Dr Anna Woodham is one of the project's co-investigators) - was a richly valuable experience from my point of view. So I look forward very much to the project's ongoing work.
Keep an eye out for the project's website, which is expected to go online over the coming months...