Resilient communities from across the UK gather in a bid to improve rural life 

December 1, 2023

The Royal Countryside Fund brought together community projects from across the UK for the inaugural Confident Rural Communities conference.

Photos: Lucy Saggers

At a unique event, focussed on the incredible resilience of those living in rural Britain, we brought together 16 community-focussed organisations to open up the conversation around rural life and its challenges, on Tuesday 28th November and Wednesday 29th November. 

Each of the organisations in attendance have received funding through our Supporting Rural Communities flagship grant programme, which has awarded £500,000 each year to power community-led solutions that enhance the viability and sustainability of rural communities. 

The Supporting Rural Communities grant programme is supported by People’s Postcode Lottery and Waitrose. People’s Postcode Lottery has awarded the RCF an incredible £2.28m of grant funding over the past six years. The conference was supported by Rural Solutions and hosted at the Broughton Sanctuary near Skipton. 

The RCF’s priority for the future is to enable sustainable and thriving rural communities as a whole – economically, environmentally and socially. We want to ensure that rural communities are living places fostering innovation, engaging people and able to play their part in addressing some of the national and global challenges that we all face. 

On the second day of the conference, Allan Wilkinson, trustee of The Royal Countryside Fund, interviewed Heather Smith from Crackington Village Shop – a community shop in an isolated coastal village in north Cornwall, providing essential groceries newspapers prescriptions and supporting local producers. 

Describing the community’s challenges, she said: “Through a survey, we proved there was a need for the service. The Royal Countryside Fund stepped in and supported us with core costs, and we were able to advance with our plans, to keep the initiative going and bring people together. Through the pandemic we really saw the need for the community support and the need for the service has continued. We have a book exchange, a prescription service, and a place to meet for a cup of tea – all enabled by some amazing volunteers.” 

Concluding the conference, Keith Halstead, Executive Director of The Royal Countryside Fund said: “It is not too late for rural communities and this conference has proved to be a unique moment in our work and a starting point for us to shape what our future support might look like. 

“Whatever constraints are faced, particularly in rural areas, you have created vibrant and sustainable communities and the RCF is delighted to play a small part in all that you do and in your success.” 

The Royal Countryside Fund would like to thank Rural Solutions, Broughton Sanctuary and The Wright Wine Co. for supporting the event, as well as People’s Postcode Lottery, Waitrose, and Clarence Court for their support of The Royal Countryside Fund’s Confident Rural Communities network.