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In July 2018 seven families engaged in a hands-on creative residency to discover, imagine and design how to live when their homes and lives would be affected by climate change.




They came together as climate refugees fleeing from their flooded homes to a holding camp, where they were set the mandate to reinvent and reinstate the needs they had taken for granted and had now lost.

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Through a carefully planned journey of creative activities, adults and children together explored each of the five levels of the Hierarchy of Maslow. This model explains how people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others.

We started at the bottom of the pyramid (warmth / shelter) and over 4 days worked our way up. Through making, music and performance participants explored questions like “what does it mean to have this need seen to? What does it mean to lose it? And how can you reinstate it?” This resulted in art pieces that reflected their answers to these questions.

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Alongside these activities a changing team of constructors created a sculpture that would home the participants’ expressions.

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Through a junk modelling exercise on the first day adults and children collectively came up with a list of design principles for a shelter that would be able to weather rising sea levels.

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Over the course of the weekend different people contributed to the creation of Barrowboat: a self-sufficient amphibious igloo, that serves as a mobile exhibition space to host and inspire creative explorations around climate change for young and old.



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Throughout the residency two ‘witnesses’ from the project team documented what happened. They participated, reflected, recorded sound, took pictures and conducted interviews. Every day they were joined by others  –kids and adults- who documented for a while. This resulted in a wonderfully diverse collection of images, video and sound recordings.

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Another method of 'data collection' was hidden in a curated caravan, where participants could reflect and document their thoughts, whilst prompted by different media and questions.

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Everyone participated in the running of the camp by cooking, tidying and -as the weather turned more wet and windy- strengthening our camp.

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Participants’ reflections on the residency:

“Highly memorable and intuitively informative, this is something that sits alongside the finest books on climate change narrative and shines a light on the priority of community engagement as we look strategically to a changing world.”

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“Retreat completely exceeded our expectations and my son said afterwards that it has helped prepare him if he ever had to leave his home suddenly. The wonderful range of inspiring people (adults and kids) were what most surprised us. It was really encouraging to meet such a diverse group with diverse skills and experiences”

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“Intriguing, initiative, progressive and personal. Throughout the weekend delivered innovation and progression pushing us to delve into that intimate space of fear, friend and foe”

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In November/December 2018 Barrowboat will be exhibited at the University of Exeter. It will be an immersive exhibition of everything generated during the residency that invites viewers to engage in their own creative reflection on theme ‘how to live when sea levels rise’.

The research team is distilling themes and patterns from the documentation, to take them forward into the two subsequent residencies (in The Netherlands and Sweden)