The DNAire project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and run by the Aire Rivers Trust (ART) in collaboration with the Environment Agency (EA). It involves the construction of new fish passes on a series of former industrial weirs on the River Aire, through Leeds and Bradford. This work will allow seagoing species (salmon, eels, etc.) to reach the upper reaches of the Aire for the first time since industrialisation, thereby restoring the ‘natural heritage’ of the river.

HLF funding is contingent on DNAire successfully engaging riverside communities – including those in the upper Aire valley, where the scheme will benefit the river’s ecology but no construction work will occur. Professor Stephen Scott-Bottoms was approached by ART to advise on how storytelling might be used as a vehicle for engagement, leading to active community participation with DNAire.

SALC support enabled me (with match-funding from DNAire pilot funds) to revise and revive Professor Stephen Scott-Bottoms’ short play This Island’s Mine, and stage it for a series of venues in the upper Aire valley. The play examines a neighbourhood in Shipley and its historic relationship with the Aire and adjacent canal, and is designed to initiate and facilitate conversations with audiences. It was used to stimulate discussion about spectators’ own sense of place, in relation to the river.

Professor Stephen Scott-Bottoms wrote up this pilot initiative in a full report for DNAire, appended below. The report includes review quotes from audience members, and photographic documentation (all pictures available separately on request). ART included this report, in its entirety, as an appendix to the application to HLF for funding for the second, full project phase of DNAire. Professor Stephen Scott-Bottoms’ recommendations on how to proceed with community engagement were incorporated into the main application, submitted in April 2019 (outcome pending).

This project extends from previous research under the AHRC-supported project, Towards Hydro-Citizenship, and involved developing community relationships with local rivers through the use of participatory storytelling. It is related to another initiative called: Otley Flood Alleviation.

Link to full report (pdf): DNAire This Island pilot report

External Partner(s): Aire Rivers Trust, Environment Agency

Funding Source(s): HLF

Project Lead: Professor Stephen Scott-Bottoms