Hinterland - 18 January 2021

In Hinterland this week, village halls, food security, broadband, Cornwall and communes…

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Rural charities to celebrate 100 years of village halls

Great to see that notwithstanding all the challenges of the last 10 months we still have time to celebrate that key social junction box and driver of rural social capital the village hall! This story tells us:

THE campaign week – now in its 4th year – is set to take place 25 to 29 January and will feature online events, videos, podcasts, and blogs showcasing the history of village halls and the benefits they have derived for rural communities over the years.  

The initiative is being led nationally by Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) and echoed by the 38 county-based rural development charities which make up the ACRE Network.

Deborah Clarke, ACRE’s Rural Evidence and Village Halls Manager said:

“The past year has been one of the most challenging periods for village halls on record. Many closed due to the government’s coronavirus restrictions, yet the volunteers who manage these buildings applied for emergency funding and put in place COVID-19 Secure measures so they could carry on providing a safe space for their community when it was most needed. Village Halls Week 2021 is in many ways, a celebration of the fact these halls are true survivors!”

Managed by volunteers, England’s 10,000+ village and community halls support a diverse range of community activities from exercise classes to coffee mornings and are routinely hired out for private parties and weddings. Some host community shops and post offices.

In a survey undertaken by ACRE last year, it was found that 60% of village halls provide the only meeting space in the local community. An estimated 50,000 individuals are reliant on the use of village halls to make a living.


Brexit: Dorset seafood exporter warns of 'end of the industry'

Much of the fishing industry voted for Brexit……

The "end of the seafood industry" on the south coast of England could be caused by post-Brexit export problems, a Dorset fish merchant has said.

Charlie Samways said extra paperwork and IT issues mean perishable seafood exports from West Bay were taking twice as long to reach customers in the EU.

As a third country outside the European Customs Union, UK exports are subject to new customs and veterinary checks.

The government said it was in contact with the industry to address issues.

Mr Samways, whose family has operated in West Bay for 60 years, buys seafood from 150 local fishermen, much of which is exported to customers in France, Spain and Italy.


Rural living can help the UK’s food security problem

Some very interesting stats, which provide some food security insights here. This article tells us:

Food security, put simply, is the state of having reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food. While the UK benefits from a successful agricultural industry, many domestic and international factors affect food production and prices for consumers. This became evident during the world food price spike of 2008.

A successful agricultural industry gives the perception that food security isn’t at risk in the UK. But the country is only around 58% self-sufficient and is reliant on imports from countries all over the world. This has caused with a trade deficit of £24 billion in food.

This fact is magnified by Brexit. The recent pandemic has also made it harder to import foods from global locations, and food that is shipped over is taking longer in transit.

Lockdown restrictions have also left farming and food production in a situation where it needs to bounce back from the crisis of the pandemic.

The current climate

Around 84% of fruit and 46% of vegetables consumed in the country are imported. While Brexit and COVID-19 threaten a steady supply to urban areas, problems created by climate change also risk disrupting imports of food from abroad.

Climate change can reduce global food access and affect its quality. An increase in temperature, change in precipitation patterns, extreme weather events, and reductions in water availability can result in reduced agricultural productivity.

For those living in a rural location, the opportunity to grow fruit and vegetables in allotments, gardens and other accessible land is one that not only gives people a fresh supply of food when they need it but a chance to be part of something bigger — helping increase food security.


- Article produced by Flogas

Rural areas face slow broadband for years, MPs warn

A depressingly commonly refrain – often quoted in Hinterland over the last decade. This article tells us:

Thousands of farmers could be left with slow broadband for years to come because of a “litany of failures” by government to roll out ultrafast technology to rural areas, according to a group of MPs.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said people living in rural areas “risk being left even further behind” if the government fails to raise its game on rural connectivity.

The warning comes after the UK government revised down its target to deliver nationwide “gigabit” broadband connectivity by 2025 from 100% to 85% of the country.

And its National Infrastructure Strategy does not state a target date for when it expects every home to have access to a 1Gbps-capable connection.

Between 2021 and 2025, the government has committed £1.2bn of the programme’s original £5bn budget, pledged in its 2019 election manifesto, to “subsidise the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband… to the hardest-to-reach areas”. There are no details on how and when the remaining £3.8bn will be allocated.

More than 95% of UK premises now have access to fast broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps, according to Ofcom. But about 1.6m premises, mainly in rural areas, can’t yet access fast speeds. Every home in the UK now has a legal right to internet speeds of a minimum of 10Mbps.


Cornwall named as venue for G7 summit of world leaders including Joe Biden

Well done Boris – this is a fabulous shot in the arm for a signature rural county. This story tells us:

Mr Johnson said that the choice of Cornwall as location for the summit will focus the eyes of the world on the beautiful and historic region, adding that its status as a centre for green innovation made it an appropriate setting for a gathering expected to discuss climate-friendly economic growth.

Visit Cornwall has estimated the total economic impact for the county at £50m, including through an increase in future tourism.

Mr Johnson said: “As the most prominent grouping of democratic countries, the G7 has long been the catalyst for decisive international action to tackle the greatest challenges we face.

“From cancelling developing world debt to our universal condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the world has looked to the G7 to apply our shared values and diplomatic might to create a more open and prosperous planet. 

“Coronavirus is doubtless the most destructive force we have seen for generations and the greatest test of the modern world order we have experienced. It is only right that we approach the challenge of building back better by uniting with a spirit of openness to create a better future.

“Cornwall is the perfect location for such a crucial summit. Two hundred years ago Cornwall’s tin and copper mines were at the heart of the UK’s industrial revolution and this summer Cornwall will again be the nucleus of great global change and advancement. I’m very much looking forward to welcoming world leaders to this great region and country.”


And Finally

Is the boom in communal living really the good life?

I had no idea there were so many active communes -  I suspect the combination of Brexit, the pandemic and our currently ever changing restless lifestyles will leave many more people bending to the lure of the Lake of Innisfree….

Would-be members used to contact Bergholt Hall, one of Britain’s longest standing farming communes, at the rate of 70 or so a year: 50-something empty nesters looking for companionship; 30-something couples in pursuit of an idyllic upbringing for their children; 20-somethings keen to erect a yurt on the hall’s rolling Suffolk pasture. Since the Covid lockdowns, however, Hodgson admits, it’s been “bonkers”. “We had 70 applications in April and May alone.”

It’s a pattern echoed across the UK, with communes reporting being inundated by new applicants of all ages, driven by the Extinction Rebellion movement and its focus on low-carbon living and, more recently, by the glimpse that lockdown has offered of simpler, less consumption-driven, lifestyles.

There are more than 400 such “intentional” communities across the UK. Many are cohousing set-ups, in which residents live in individual dwellings with a few common areas and domestic functions; others are based upon a lifestyle or worldview (spiritualism, gender non- binarism, veganism) and feature a variety of communal labour arrangements and facilities.

A surprising number are longstanding country communes, such as Bergholt Hall, founded in the heyday of the 1960s and 70s back-to-the-land and self-sufficiency movements. It was an era when an ideological generation of “diggers” (named after the 17th-century English communards) sought to challenge notions of the sanctity of the nuclear family and opt out of “the grab-game of straight society” (as hippy bible Oz magazine put it in a 1968 article on the first London digger commune).


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.


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