Landscape stories: an investigation of organisations’ and diverse audiences’ narratives of the countryside to advance justice (2020)

Dr Laura Hodsdon, Falmouth University

Image: Wembury, © Laura Hodsdon

Project summary

Working with the National Trust (NT), this project uses Wembury in South-East Devon as a test-bed to surface stories (real or imagined) about the landscape from organisations and individuals from diverse audiences, to create an impactful action plan for the NT to ensure ‘everyone is welcome’, contribute to wellbeing, and connect people to nature. Using an inductive approach with a wide demographic range of participants we will elicit multiple narratives of place, which may relate to marginalised identities, experiences of being in the landscape, rapid environmental change in this coastal area, or other narratives hegemonic or marginalised. By exploring discursive strategies and embodied experiences of rural landscapes, we ask: How is the landscape socio-spatially constructed by diverse audiences? How are narratives of place discursively constructed, how do they differ amongst groups, and how might we use this understanding to engage a wider demographic? (How) do race, class, and gender, and power and privilege, manifest themselves? What does the evident rapid environmental change at the coastline mean to local communities and visitors, and how does this vary across groups? And do the NT’s materials and the environment it creates ensure that ‘Everyone is welcome’?

Image: Wembury, © Laura Hodsdon

The researchers will sample a wide demographic range of participants to elicit multiple narratives of place, which may relate to marginalised identities, experiences of being in the landscape, rapid environmental change in this coastal area, or other narratives hegemonic or marginalised.

In this way the project will advance landscape research by investigating how a diversity of identities and narratives are embedded within the socio-spatial view of the landscape, to enable organisations like the National Trust adopt a practical approach to inclusion based on reflective, diagnostic practice, whatever the context. Thus we move beyond the common pitfall of local impact restricted to its particular context, to impactfully linking research and organisational policy/practice in a scalable understanding of how the rural landscape can be inhabited by pluralistic narratives not hegemonic ones; of understanding, engagement, and enjoyment for all, thus ensuring immediate and future public benefit.

LRG funding was originally intended to allow travel to the site and conference, however Covid-19 restrictions has meant the funding will now contribute towards a short film on this landscape and corresponding narration.

Image: Wembury, © Laura Hodsdon