TALK: Where is a good home for a project like this?

After my presentation on 5th December event, people have asked me to post the talk I did on here.. it isn't quite word for word, and excuse some convoluted sentences. I took the room to a place where dreams are made of.. let's hope! "The rural hub dream is well.. the dream!", said one. 

"Thank you all for coming, it is a treat to have you all in this room, some familiar faces from those I have been privileged enough to meet over the past few months and those whom have been recommended to come, drawn to this conversation and our proposed ideas. 

Now that we’ve warmed you have eaten well and have heard from Jamie and Steph who are building bridges with urban and rural around food and agriculture, this goes one step further. We are going to get a little dreamy now…  I want you to think big, really out there horizontally vast plains of possibility BIG; beyond farm diversification, beyond glamping and festivals, beyond weddings and orientation games.. Aaand hold it, breathe out, before you get indigestion.

With that openness, I want you to think about your working day.  who you see, how old / young they are, what they do, what their work is, and then what you’re doing tomorrow? Who you’ll see, what they do, what you will do even… Now, I want you to reimagine your working day.

Some of you already have a significant relationship with the land, for those who don’t, how might we resolve our connection with the land in a more harmonious way, daily. How might we receive the benefits from being more connected to the natural cycles? What would our products, our services look like? How would this contribute to a meaningful livelihood for our younger generations? 

We are again in a time of uncertainty and volatility. There is a cry for to be more self sufficient again, not only of the land, but of ourselves, to be more resilient, to revitalize our communities, our villages and the links to the farms. 

The rural project is a culmination of a physical space where people come to work, to grow, to learn, practice, to celebrate, to volunteer and to slow down. It is also an expression of a wider movement, where people and the planet are longing for holistic, land-based skills particularly in our young. This project provides the space for those ideas, those connections and the output of sustainable solutions to a widespread problem we are only now starting to feel. 

To provide: from the latin providere: pro (before), videre (to see) = to foresee, to prepare, to get ready

The purpose is to appreciate the natural world, to prevent isolation and bring a sense of belonging for people who feel displaced. The activity is diverse with a running theme of self sufficiency to look after oneself and others. As our working / job patterns shift too, we need to grow accustomed to working less, with less job security and job availability for all of us, and thus we need to relearn consume less and make more ourselves. 

These series of talks are part of this too, to bring rural life, from deepening our understanding of a familiar landscape from Daithi’s indigenous Bristol; transferring indigenous ideas to this city, to land matching in January, to tonight, the launch of paper napkin idea born out of the growing-element of the rural project. A nice-to-have on one piece of land, but let’s really shift something here and scale it up, it only takes people, you here tonight, to make it work.

In ecosystems it is at the edge, between a forest and a meadow for example, where there is the highest biodiversity and most number of relationships between different species. As a result it is there that evolution is the most powerful, where change and innovation are boosted.

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."

Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make sense any more.
— Rumi