Water protectors
'Water Protectors' at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016

Parliament of Waters is an international arts, science and social action programme that aims to bring together artists, curators, environmental activists, scientists and lawyers, along with local communities and bodies of water from around the world, in order to ‘give a voice to water’. 

Parliament of Waters recovers the story of how water has agency. With geo-systems on the move, and water being one of the first and most crucial human ‘resources’ to be impacted by climate change, Parliament of Waters opens up the possibility that humans are not really in control of freshwater, and never have been. As we wake up to that reality, we are asking, ‘If water could speak, what would it say?’

A Parliament of Waters is being developed as an arts, science, law and social action partnership that re-balances the relationship between the environment and humans, by giving a voice to water. Artistic practice is a primary way to hear that voice, while law and science offer that voice in other dimensions. Indigenous cultures have long paid attention to the sacredness of water and, in the traditions of the Commons, the equitable sharing of water has been crucial for agriculture and industry. Parliament of Waters aims to weave these different voices together place by place in order to transform the human relationship to water, from extraction to restoration. Climate change is the context and the imperative to action.

Local ‘Parliaments’ will be established in relation to the region’s waterways, but the project ultimately aims to establish conversations with other bodies of water globally.

The Parliament of Waters strand is co-directed by Isabel Carlisle (Director of the South Devon Bioregional Learning Centre) and Professor Tom Trevor (Languages, Cultures and Visual Studies)

Red River
Photo: John Wedgwood Clarke / redriverpoetry.com

The ‘Parliament of Waters’ strand incorporates the following projects and commissions:

Voice of the Dart

A catchment-wide and community-led exploration of the impact of climate change on our rivers and drinking water that combines the arts, climate science, data, local knowledge and co-design in order to imagine climate-resilient water futures.

Red River

An AHRC-funded research project led by Dr John Wedgwood Clarke, exploring how creative writing can transform our relationship to a polluted, post-industrial river, through listening to the human and non-human voices that have shaped, and continue to shape, its course.

River Tamar Project

A programme of contemporary art and film, commissioning projects around the River Tamar, the historic waterway that forms the border between Devon and Cornwall, including commissioned work by John Akromfrah and Adam Chodzko.

Salmon Run

A commission funded by Creative Peninsula and Creative Arc, to explore the Atlantic salmon’s journey along the River Exe, and created by Tidelines.

‘Parliament of Waters’ is led by Isabel Carlisle, Director of the Bioregional Learning Centre in South Devon, and Tom Trevor (Creative Peninsula principal investigator).