Rural Youth Ideas Festival: Event Report

Hannah Downey

Last week, as partners in the Rural Youth Project, the Scottish Rural Network (SRN) attended the first Rural Youth Ideas Festival at Hilton of Aldie Farm, Kinross. The event was attended by over 80 young rural people from all over the world, and we were lucky enough to hear some of their inspirational stories. We were also spoiled with food, drink and entertainment at the festival – not to mention the stunning family farm location.

The event was fully funded by Perth & Kinross LEADER. Jackie Brierton, chair of the programme, said;

"The Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER programme was delighted to support the Rural Youth Ideas Festival – it was an innovative venture which aligned with our local development strategy objective of supporting and encouraging young people who live rurally. 

“The festival brought together young people who had already shown leadership potential in their own communities, organisations and work places, and gave them the opportunity to develop new networks, skills and make connections with potential mentors. The event also worked with local micro-businesses and suppliers, making a valuable contribution to Scotland’s rural enterprise and economy.”

The aim of the Rural Youth Project is to develop feasible strategies which will help to facilitate the involvement of young people in agricultural and rural activity. Through an online survey and the Ideas Festival, the project hopes to gain better understanding of rural young people’s current situation, as well as their aspirations, opportunities and challenges. The theme of the festival was ‘Be the change YOU want to see’, and talking to SRN Jane Craigie said;

“Part of the Rural Youth Project was not only to raise awareness of what the issues are for young people in rural areas, but to bring them together to encourage young people to share their own ideas, to build on those ideas and to enact change in their own communities.

“The Rural Youth Festival has been about bringing these young people together -we’ve brought together some inspiring speakers, the young people themselves, and importantly some industry influencers who will listen to them.”

The festival kicked off on the 1st August with a drinks reception, sponsored by InteragroUK, who supplied the festival with homemade scones, cupcakes and (most importantly!) Pimms. The delegates got straight to brainstorming, discussing their biggest gripes about living in a rural area and some common answers included rural crime, lack of network connectivity and poor transport.

There was also a welcome from rural and agricultural communications specialists, Jane Craigie Marketing, who initiated the Rural Youth Project and organised the Ideas Festival. Later in the evening, we were entertained by fife musicians Mixtape-duo and we made good use of the licensed bar.

The following day, the key findings of the Rural Youth Project report (you can register to view the report here) were presented to the festival-goers and many of the key findings reflected what had been discussed the night before.

Delegates also had a chance to engage with the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Mairi Gougeon MSP. In an opening speech, Ms. Gougeon highlighted that young people in rural areas are not only important for the future, but also for the here and now of Scotland’s rural communities. In an interview with the Scottish Rural Network, Ms. Gougeon – who hails from Brechin in rural Angus herself, also said:

“We can have a lot of job opportunities in rural areas but if we don’t have affordable housing for people to buy or rent then we’re never going to get people to live or work there.

It’s about trying to create the conditions for young people to want to settle in rural areas… I want it to be a thriving area where people want to live, and to work, and to do business.”

The second day of the festival also saw some truly inspirational and honest young speakers talk about their experiences growing up in a rural area. Some of the speakers included Kendra Lancaster – a paralympian from a rural background in Canada, Christy Macfarlane who works for Bruichladdich distillery in Islay, and Matt Naylor who runs a successful flower growing business in Lincolnshire as well as writing a column for Farmer’s Weekly.

Some of the most important advice these speakers had for young people trying to thrive in rural areas was to say yes to opportunity, listen to everyone but be selective in whose words you act on, and don’t be afraid to rock the boat!

On the third and final day of the festival some of the international delegates told their own stories of rural life back home and the different challenges they face there, before everyone got stuck in with some fun workshops in the afternoon – including a mixology masterclass, wooden surfboard crafting and sausage making.

There were also workshops held by some of the young attendees themselves discussing the power of networking, how to grow your business and how to curate your story. The aim of these workshops was to provide delegates with some take home skills and ideas that they can achieve in their own communities.

We can’t wait to see what’s next for the Rural Youth Project, and what exciting new projects and initiatives will be actioned by the young people who attended this inspiring event. Check out our festival highlights video below, and visit our social media sites (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for more #RuralYouthAugust content this month.

Rural Youth Project Ideas Festival (subtitled) from ScottishRuralNetwork on Vimeo.