Societal response to flooding in Somerset

At our first meeting in December I was very pleased to meet with the other members of my group. I have to admit to feeling extremely excited by the group’s ideas surrounding the Societal Response to the Floods, as this fits in so well with the research I did for my project on the Somerset Levels and Moors. ( However, I was also a little intimidated by the amount of knowledge contained within one room!

An excellent starting point for our project was provided by Josie Ashe, who had completed a drawing of the of the area, which we felt was a very accessible starting point for getting the public to engage with our project. This initial focus combined with the work that group had already completed, prior to meeting me, led us to formulate a strategy for the exhibition. We intend to draw together a number of themes running throughout the Land of the Summer People project which aim to provide a space which informs and encourages dialog on the connectivity of the landscape (social and hydrological), drivers for change, and our response to recent and historic flooding.


I will be utilizing some of my interviews from those effected by the flooding as a way of provoking a response from our audience and have included a sample which can be heard here (

In terms of putting this project into practice, I feel there may be challenges regarding our differing approach to the subject. My working process is always quite fluid, in short there can be no way of predicting what the people I interview will want to talk about or what my research will uncover. I always try to keep an open mind and never form a final idea of my ‘finished piece’ until the research period is finished, I welcome change and find that my best work comes out of uncertainty. However, I cannot imagine that this is a strategy adopted my many engineers, and I am imagining theirs will be a far more logical process.

So what am I getting from this collaboration? I have asked my group to join me in Moorland where we can experience first hand the social effects of the floods. I feel very comfortable in this environment. I am more than familiar with the people I interview and the places they live. I know their feelings regarding the dredging and the flood defences but I wonder whether these interviews may have left me with a slightly biased view? Furthermore, perhaps I exercise more control over my work than I would care to admit. It has occurred to me that I respond to people’s feelings and thoughts without any need for fact or scientific verification; I have no need to be factual. Therefore I need to commit to the collaborative process by engaging with the ‘science’ surrounding our topic and allow the rest of my group to educate me, a challenge which will push the boundaries of my processes but it is what influence I may have over their methodology which I feel may be our biggest challenge.

Andrea Oke


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