Column by Jane Craigie for the Press and Journal
One of the big concerns for many countries, including our own, is that the global pandemic will increase the migration of young people away from our countryside. I’m more hopeful that, with local community support, they will find ways to stay and evolve our rural places.
As part of our Rural Youth Project we surveyed 18-28 year olds during the pandemic.
Repeating questions that we asked when we launched the Project in 2018, we found that, despite their levels of optimism about their future in rural places falling from 72% to 40%, many have no plans to move to the city. This is down to their love of place and community.
Many youngsters are taking creative approaches to build their livelihoods and it’s important that we support them, because in doing so, we are supporting the future of these places.
Austen Morley is in his early 20s, he lives near Turriff. Before lockdown he was about to launch a ‘pop-up’ cocktail, barista coffee and food service in a refurbished Citroen van. He will take it to festivals and weddings, serving local spirits, food and milk to froth his cappuccinos.
Covid has prompted Gini Dickinson from Jura and Eilidh Carr from Berneray, North Uist, to sell online. Gini’s GiniBeaniFairy website sells her environmentally conscious clothing and jewellery. Eilidh sells cards, tea towels and calendars via Coralbox online.
Treasa Cadogan is from Cape Clear, off the most southerly tip of Ireland. Her family have lived there for generations and she wants to return to live on the island once she graduates from Cork University.
At last December’s Rural Youth Ideas Festival, Treasa told us a story about her plight - no food takeaways on the island. A superfast ferry service halved the travel time from the mainland to 25 minutes enabling delivery of a still-warm ‘carry out’. She described it as revolutionary for all the young people on the island.
With our help, Treasa is now planning a pop-up street food business on Cape Clear, it will be ‘The most southerly takeaway in Ireland’. She believes this will bring more tourists, make the island a more vibrant and sustainable place to live and it will be her commitment to keeping island life going and growing.
Young people like Austen, Gini, Eilidh and Treasa see a different future for our rural and remote places, and this gives me great hope that, with the support of all of us, their vision, energy and ideas to reimagine rural, whilst retaining the values of place and community, will inject the much-needed lifeblood into our countryside.