Exploring Climate Change through Creativity
'The Song of the Reeds' extends drama’s dialogue with urgent issues of conservation. It develops striking new forms of public engagement with conservation organisations.
Exploring how playwriting can engage with conservation, this innovative research examines the workings of distinct wetland, fen and reed-bed based reserves. It’s a true creative collaboration between dramatist Steve Waters (Professor of Scriptwriting at UEA), the National Trust, RSPB and the Tangled Feet theatre company.
The research focuses on creatively examining the Wicken Fen and Strumpshaw Fen nature reserves through archival, psycho-geographic and ethnographic lenses. The findings into the founding figures and moments in the ecology of the region inspire and emerge as innovative projects, theatrical interventions and dramatic presentations.
This research is a constant attempt to reveal the hidden ethics of the way we live. It explores climate change through changing the conditions for making drama, developing relationships with non-theatrical venues and devising new theatre productions and companies.
A four-part radio drama for Radio 4 written by Prof Steve Waters in collaboration with Holy Mountain. This will be broadcast over the year at equinoxes and solstices, providing a near documentary account of conservation through the seasons.
The latest project 'Voices across the Reeds: Dramatising the effects of climate and time' will see young people in Norwich aged 16-18 conduct arts-based research at the local RSPB nature reserve Strumpshaw Fen, to investigate impacts of climate change on the reserve and its wildlife over time. They will present their research in a piece of verbatim theatre, also at the Fen, in December 2021. The project is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Read more: Drama explores our place in nature and what ‘the environment’ means – UKRI
Collaborating with partners, including the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA) and Norfolk Record Office, Prof Waters wrote alternative voice-overs to films from EAFA’s collection representing East Anglia’s broads. He also shared a new monologue written especially for The Song of the Reeds.
Watch these narrated archive films that explore the region’s unique natural heritage, offering a glimpse of the unseen lives of flora and fauna that call East Anglia’s natural habitats their home.
In collaboration with Tangled Feet, this project will create a site-specific play. Its focus will be on the centrality of the role of nature, as we extricate ourselves from the pandemic.
The play will use innovative headphone-based drama, entertaining physical theatre and highly visual methods to reveal the potential of reserves as drama venues. It will synthesise the experiences and concerns emerging from the residency. It will put the reserves and their work into a larger public domain, animating their predicament in a mobilising fashion and modelling how theatre can be made in non-theatrical and non-urban settings.
The innovative activities at the heart of 'The Song of the Reeds' include community-based projects, unique public engagement events and a final professional project. All of them exemplify how drama can be used within conservation, and the importance of connecting the dots between artistic practice, academic research and local communities.
Alongside the aforementioned partners, the creative work has also supported Norfolk Heritage Open Days. These events cover the stories, sites, places and people that traditional history overlooks.
In 2021, this creative work will form the basis of a series of online events and discussions animating the history of conservation. The debates will be rooted in scenarios crafted by Prof Waters and linked directly with each reserve. It will provoke innovative public debates, using forum theatre techniques to interrogate the future of the reserves and the challenges they face - changing climate, land use, invasive species and species loss.
With drama always at the heart, this work pushes the boundary to generate new forms of public interaction for the National Trust and RSPB.
Steve Waters, UEA Professor of Scriptwriting
Professor Steve Waters is a political dramatist who focuses on environmental questions. His work has won many awards. World Music was joint winner of the Meyer-Whitworth Award. Fall of the Shah was runner-up to Best Drama Podcast of 2019 by British Podcasting Awards. The Contingency Plan, a diptych of three plays about climate change, was shortlisted for the John Whiting Award.
Prof Waters teaches undergraduates and postgraduates at the School of Literature, Drama & Creative Writing at UEA. He was co-convenor of the Writing and Science Project and now also convenes the MA in Creative Writing: Scriptwriting programme and supervises PhD students. Teaching and writing have always been linked in his work.
ListenListen to the first episode 'Swallowtail' on BBC Sounds.
DiscoverDiscover behind the scenes with Prof Steve Waters.
ReadCheck out The Guardian review of 'Song of the Reed: Swallowtail'.
WatchWatch a series of beautiful short films on 'Hidden Nature', created for East Anglian Film Archive's Heritage Open Day.