Let’s start at the beginning. I’m going to concentric circles to describe the space, starting from the outside ring and bring it closer in. The vision I hold for the rural project is a piece of land, acres high grade for growing on, poorer quality for self-build projects and for land restoration work with land space for people to rent, a supply of affordable land for land-based innovations, projects that require scale, prototyping and security, like SNUG homes, or a natural dye garden.
Next ring: The Outbuildings for light industrial use, people who need space to develop or produce, people who need space to craft their woodwork, people who need space to practice their art, people who need unfussy space to make a mess, to store their work and to make a noise.
As we step into the next circle, this is where that last statement and the next could clash… the hearth. The therapy rooms, the offices and shared deskspace, the event space for courses, performances and talks,. I want you to picture for me the mix of those energies, of those flows… the proof of concept being this building where you sit tonight, the mixture of activity here and who’s users have called for a rural workspace too...
Imagine two men carrying a piece of stone for a sculptor, of kids running around in the woods beyond ‘rewilding’, of small businesses having conference calls, of solo workers meeting each other in the cafe and starting a project together, of a band tuning up for their performance later that evening, of a meditation class happening in a therapy room whilst next door a man is counselled, and outside the window an elderly group with dementia are having horticultural therapy.. Phew! This is a place that breathes life, that embraces our edges, that embraces our differences, that the land, the same piece of land, can support.
The last two years, I have been actively researching and developing plans for this site, pulling in inspiration and suggestions from overseas in Spain, Canada, France, Sweden, as well as visiting sites here in the UK, one trip by bicycle Lands End to John O'Groats. From high end retreat sites to simple low impact dwellings, where I learnt self-build skills, to lambing on traditional farms. Like an apprentice, I have been observing the field, whilst noticing a gap in the offering for a place where people could come to work, with reliable internet, facilities, a community, space and stimulation, and where people could pop in once a month, to learn a new practice, to see a band, to volunteer on the farm… yes it is a hub and it is informed by the growth and development work experienced by learning from others, from mixed disciplines of artists and growers and whomever walks through the gate.
When we say a place for growth, it is not only the vegetables, it is the people. Helping on a self build of an eco-building to house new therapy rooms, for example when many of us may not imagine we can build our own homes, and experiencing that as a group is quite powerful.
Secondly, it is the growth in the youth, Imayla are here tonight, a CIC who take out kids from the inner city and surrounds to welcome rural self sufficiency and a different type of territory into these kids lives, leaving them to entertain themselves, create their own entertainment...even in the rain! They are looking for a permanent project they can visit and be involved with. Similarly, a summer school for kids 16-21 who face many decisions, and whom don’t often feel equipped to make such a decision. Giving them leadership and land based skill development, would influence those decisions, taking a step back away from the urgency and short-termism, and recognise the important, or the real work.
There are a range of possibilities depending on the site, and with them a variety of business models and plans. We have reams of research, data, figures that support the demand and market for a project serving mixed needs, financial models that seem to change every hour!
What we have is our network and our following, and the vision that this is beyond a business park, beyond an educational farm, beyond a retreat site… this is an inclusive site that invites soft and hard industry to work side by side. We ask you to reimagine your working day.
Why have I invited you here? To see the breadth of possibilities ahead, and also the bigger, yet local cry we need respond to. You here have an opportunity to contribute to this, the more we are based in the natural world, the more we understand, the more we care, the more we value.
So, who has a spare barn for me?
For more info on the business model, finances and requirements, come find me."