From Gallura to the Fens: Communities Performing Stories of Water




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Book chapter

Peer reviewed



Tipping the northerly edge of Sardinia, Gallura boasts a mountainous and rocky landscape, alongside reclaimed lowland pastures. Its climate and economic infrastructure present a range of conflicts and dilemmas for the community around water use and management. To help address such dilemmas, researchers in the area revived a traditional form of community conflict resolution – La Rasgioni (trans. ‘The Reasons’) – a public forum, in the form of a courtroom, for the telling of tales of water, struggle, shortage and excess. Over 1,000 miles away, similar water dilemmas present themselves in the Fenlands of Cambridgeshire, England. Bringing with it tussles between urban and rural, organisational and community, and land owners and users, water plays a large role in the lives of those in the area.

This is the story of The Reasons, an adaption of La Rasgioni, designed to respond to the challenges faced by the communities of the Cambridgeshire Fens and Peterborough. Following the process of adapting, performing and reflecting on the sharing of stories of water, The Reasons recounts the stories of water shortage, drought, need and community which are deeply embedded in the lives of those who live in the Fenlands. The Reasons combines the traditional resolution technique of Gallura with British folk performance traditions such as the ceilidh, whilst also drawing inspiration from Bertolt Brecht’s classic play of community conflict, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and the ideas and practices of Augusto Boal’s Forum Theatre and the Theatre for Development Movement, to create a new way of bringing community stories together for an environmentally sustainable future.

This chapter will trace and evaluate the adaptation of La Rasgioni into The Reasons. It will explore its contribution to our understanding of water use, and analyse the usefulness of performance and storytelling as a medium for giving voice to those who live with the dilemmas of water resource management. By recounting the two iterations of The Reasons, one performed in a rural setting and the other in an urban space, the chapter will demonstrate the ways in which performance enabled a sense of place and space, and suggest ways in which this might tell us more about human-water relationships and community cohesion.


other authors are part of a storytelling group at Loughborough University


Storytelling, Environmental humantities, Water, Performance


Bakewell, L. et al. (2019) From Gallura to the Fens: Communities Telling Stories of Water. In: Water, Creativity and Meaning: Multidisciplinary Understandings of Water Human Relationships. Ed by Liz Roberts and Katherine Phillips (Routledge: London)


Research Institute

Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies