Through A Rural Lens: UK Rural development and networking conference 2017

Mural from Through A Rural Lens event
By Kirsty Crichton

Kirsty Crichton from the Scottish Rural Network reports from the recent Through A Rural Lens event held in Belfast.

Delegates from across the UK and Ireland attended the Through A Rural Lens: Rural Development and Networking Conference at the Clayton Hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 14 and 15 November 2017.

Scotland was well represented by a range of organisations, as well as panel member Professor Sarah Skerratt from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

The conference began with presentations from six panel members who provided a concise insight of rural issues from across the regions, highlighting the contribution of the Rural Development Programme in addressing these needs. Subsequently, the focus moved in the direction of planning the future of rural development in the UK, which included informative evidence from Professor Sarah Skerratt (SRUC), Economist Neil McCullough (Oxford Economics) and Professor Jeremy Phillipson from Newcastle University.

Networking and discussion opportunities were later provided at the facilitated workshops around the following themes: Sustainable and Inclusive Communities; Enterprise and Employment; Land Use, Environment and Rural Economy and Infrastructure and Community. The key issues were identified during discussions within the workshops, then summarised and presented by the respective facilitators to all conference attendees.

Networking continued in to the evening with an informal visit to the Crumlin Road Gaol. The trip included a tour of the prison followed by a delicious meal which was served in their impressive function suite, which allowed time for conference members to engage with one another out-with the conference room setting.

The second day consisted of a wide selection of project visits which allowed delegates the chance to hear from a range of practitioners that have benefited from previous rural regeneration funded programmes. Feedback from the project visits suggested they were a useful and informative component of the conference.

An additional highlight was beginning to take shape in the form of a mural produced by ‘More than Minutes’ - a team of artists who neatly summarised the conference’s main themes in their visual representation (pictured). The artists involved were then invited to share their final masterpiece, explaining how it came together by interpreting the feedback given over the course of the two days. 

The friendly and vibrant city of Belfast was an excellent choice for hosting this networking conference, and thanks must be given to all those from the Northern Ireland Rural Network Support Unit team for organising such a fantastic and relevant event.

You can find a full event report, with links to presentations, a photo gallery and more on the Rural Network for Northern Ireland website.

In our short video from the event you can hear from a representative from Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

UK Rural Development & Networking Conference 2017 - Interviews with delegates from ScottishRuralNetwork on Vimeo.