By Tim Acott, Cheryl Willis, Sue Ranger, Gabriel Cumming, Peter Richardson, Rose O’Neil, and Adriana Ford.
Read the full paper here.
Being in nature generally is good for us but there seems to be something particularly special about the coast for our health and well-being. In this research, we wanted to find ways to capture what the coast means to people in their own words. We used an approach called Community Voice Method which films people being interviewed. The interviews are analysed and a short film made that respresents all the key themes discussed. The film is then used in workshops to start a conversation amongst the original interviewees and a broader collection of people.
In this study we interviewed a total of 41 participants who ranged from people using the coast regularly to more limited users across two case study areas in Portsmouth and along the Durham coast. In both places peoples relationship to the coast was important to them and endured through time. For some, they love the coast because they can get out and about and enjoy the diverse places coastal environments offer. For others, attachment to the sea happened through memories rooted in deep heartfelt emotions of past experiences.
The people interviewed expressed a range of important issues including a sense of belonging to the coast, the features of the coast that were important to them, difficulties of access and the well-being benefits they felt.
The films that were made provided a way for the voices of different people to be heard and helps to show how communities care deeply about their local coastal environment. The deep connection that many interviewees expressed towards the coast is particularly interesting given the study targeted groups who would perhaps not normally be identified as interested in nature or wildlife. An important challenge is how to ensure the voices revealed by approaches like the community voice method are able to be included in decision making and policy development. This opens up questions about the ability of institutions to utilise qualitative, creative approaches that describe different ways people feel the coast is important.