Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Crackling and the autumn statement

I have just been watching the Chancellor's autumn statement and there does seem to be support on offer for small and medium sized businesses. The messages about broadband and mobile phone coverage even seem to be getting through. And yet, is this going to be enough for rural enterprise? Only yesterday, the farmer from whom I buy pork emailed to say that their recent delivery for my freezer will be the last as they are winding up the business. It does seem sad that all their years of hard work, raising Gloucester old spot and Oxford sandy and black pigs to high welfare standards, resulting in top quality meat, result in a situation where they cannot make a decent living. I don't suppose today's proposals are going to make them change their minds. We may never taste decent crackling again.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Relu makes an impact

Yesterday's confrence at The Sage seemed to pass in rather an exciting blur. So many researchers and stakeholders took the trouble to tell me what a good day they were having, and how brilliant Relu has been. Having so much going on: the debates, discussion workshops, interactive activities from the projects, and the awards, gave it a real buzz. The films added a fantastic dimension to the event. We had two great winners in the Relu Awards: Sustainable Uplands, learning to manage future change for impact and Understanding environmental knowledge controversies for methodology. My only regret was that two such good projects: Comparative merits of consuming vegetables produced locally and overseas and Catchment management for protection of water resources had to lose. But we have four excellent films that the projects can use to promote their research in the future. And ALL the great impacts and innovative methodology from the programme is now available in two new briefing papers: "Changing Landscapes" published by Relu and "Innovation in Interdisciplinary Methods: the Relu Experience" published by the Data Support Service.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Who should run the countryside? Find out tomorrow!

We are all packed and ready to take everything down to The Sage for our conference "Who should run the countryside?" which kicks off at 9.30 tomorrow morning. This afternoon the Newcastle University porters are whisking boxes of conference delegate packs - each in a Relu printed eco-friendly hessian bag - down to Gateshead Quayside. Those coveted Relu Awards are carefully shrouded in bubblewrap and will be revealed at the ceremony tomorrow afternoon when Sir Howard Newby presents them to the winners. Chairs and speakers are lined up for the debates and discussions and at this moment the various props needed by the projects for their interactive activities will be starting to arrive at the stage door. Ben, The Sage's endlessly reassuring technician has the films and we have our back up copies just in case. There have been a couple of crises - including one unfortunate panellist with a broken leg - but another heroic stakeholder has stepped in to help. The Relu programme is fortunate in having so many willing friends. And that makes me feel that tomorrow will be a good day.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Bringing rural controversies - and song - to Tyneside

We can't promise that "Who should run the countryside" will be ALL singing,ALL dancing but there really will be some singing - and where could be more appropriate than The Sage, Gateshead? I understand that acoustically it is among the top 10 venues in the world and it is a stunning building, apparently created from silver panels that roll upwards from the riverside. So it seems an appropriate place to hear the Sustainable Uplands project singing about the future of our hills. Other highlights could be more sharply pointed, I think, particularly when debates such as "21st century land ownership: a responsibility or a privilege?" and "Food security v environmental responsibility: which should take precedence?" get underway. Some stakeholders have already remarked on the provocative nature of the conference's title and, of course, that isn't accidental. We want to stimulate people to think about the countryside and to contribute their views. We want to bring some rural controversy to Tyneside, and to make this a really engaging day.