The second Rural Youth Project Ideas Festival was held at Wiston Lodge, Lanarkshire, which gathered 50 rural young people together to share ideas, network, develop new skills and discuss how to make life better for themselves and their peers.
The three-day festival for the grassroots organisation – held on 29 November to 1 December – combined inspirational speakers with practical workshops to empower young people by developing their leadership, communication, enterprise and activism skills to help them play their part in making rural places more viable for young people to build their lives and their futures.
Ian Cullens, a young farmer from Dollar, said he unsure what to expect from the weekend, but walked away with renewed vigour for his business and the future of rural Scotland.
“From my experience, rural people tend to become siloed in their work and the Ideas Festival provided a fantastic opportunity to reflect on my personal circumstances, while gaining perspective from other young people and the challenges they face living remotely.
“I’m really pleased I signed up to join the event and will be encouraging young people in my area to attend next year,” said Ian.
Joining Ian at the festival for the first time was Treasa Cadogan who made the trip especially for the event from Cape Clear Island off the most southerly coast of Ireland. The 20-year-old, who is currently studying international development at University College Cork, would like to return and live on the island in future, but with a population of just 130 people, it is vulnerable to losing its school, employment options and services.
A design thinking workshop, run by Rosemary Scrimgeour from The Building Workshop, explored potential ideas to create a viable future for young people on Cape Clear.
“I was one of six islanders – the rest from Scotland – at the Ideas Festival,” Treasa said. “We share identical and unique challenges. The design thinking workshop was brilliant and the idea we came up with was to develop a pop-up food event on Cape Clear to encourage tourists over to the island.”
The concept arose after Treasa delighted fellow delegates with her resourcefulness, working with the crew of the new high-speed ferry to deliver her a Chinese takeaway, which would be warm on arrival.
“The new boat has reduced travel time from the mainland from 50 to 25 minutes, which meant that the takeaway is still warm when it arrives; the workshop turned this idea on its head, proposing that the island becomes the place to visit for pop-up food events, possibly to tie in with the West Cork food festival.” She is now actively pursuing the concept.
"I signed up to the Festival because I wanted see how other rural communities were supporting young people to live and work in their rural areas.
“The Rural Youth Project has been so welcoming, and I’ll be taking home with me a network of supportive, like-minded people who I can call on when trying to create change back home,” said Treasa.
The Rural Youth Project is funded as a cooperation project by five LEADER Local Action Groups (LAGs);Angus, Lanarkshire, Outer Hebrides, Rural Perth and Kinross and the Scottish Borders,who are supporting the project in thenext phase of a longer-term programme to reach out to all areas of Scotland and enable all young people to participate and become the next generation of rural leaders. The Rural Youth Project issupported bythe LEADER Programme 2014-2020: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development:Europe investing in rural areas.
Lanarkshire LEADER’s Kenny Lean was pleased to welcome delegates to the event.
“The enthusiasm of the delegates in the room was infectious. This LEADER cooperation project will help young people take a greater role in shaping rural Scotland and I look forward to watching what these inspirational young people achieve through the practical skills gained at the Ideas Festival.”
Rural Youth Project Director, Rebecca Dawes, said that it is important to give young people a platform to stand up and be heard.
“One of the main aims of the project, is to champion the rich and diverse stories of rural young people to bring attention to the unique issues they face and providing an environment for them to connect over shared experiences.
“Our work is designed to specifically help young people stand up for their needs in rural places and to think differently about resolving rural challenges, while providing important skills to help them create change,” said Rebecca.
Delegates came from 9 different countries – Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Germany, Australia, The Netherlands, Russia and Sweden.
The Rural Youth Project will be hosting a series of Big Rural Ideas Workshops across Scotland in 2020 with the aim to help young people turn their projects and business ideas into reality. Information for young people to register their interest to attend will be available soon.