Farmers who can’t afford to eat the food they produce. Local people who can’t afford to live in their own villages. Transport ‘networks’ which isolate communities.

Set in the beautiful backdrop of the Peak District National Park, God’s Lone Country is a 12-minute film commissioned by the RSA’s Food, Farming & Countryside Commission to expose the very real problems facing rural communities and give a voice to people who reflect the experiences of millions who live in our countryside.

The issues they face are every bit as serious and pressing as in urban areas – but they feel unheard and overlooked by policymakers in Westminster and society in general.

The film follows the stories of three people. James Metcalfe is a tenant sheep farmer in Edale, who feels trapped in the “vicious circle” of a cheap food culture. He describes the “ridiculous” situation of being a food producer who can’t always afford the food he produces, in the supermarket. Cassie Hodgkinson is a student nurse and mother-of-three in Youlgrave, who couldn’t afford to rent or buy in the desirable village where she was born and bred. She’s spent 18 years searching for a permanent home. Kelly Shaw is a hard-working single mum from Gamesley who lives on a deprived housing estate, on the edge of the Peak District National Park. Gamesley has many of the problems associated with inner city areas but lacks the services most people take for granted in big towns and cities. Yet thousands of ramblers, cyclists and horse riders pass by Gamesley on the famous Trans Pennine Trail. It’s a lucrative tourist trade right on the doorstep – but Kelly and her community don’t see the benefits.

At the Food, Farming & Countryside Commission we have spent the last 18 months investigating what is shaping our food and farming systems and rural communities – what works and what is not working for people, and how a more integrated and inclusive approach could revitalise rural economies.

In the RSA’s new book, Fork in the Road, we celebrated the inspiring stories heard on our national bike tour of the UK countryside. Through this film, we tell the other side of the story.

We commissioned the film to challenge rose-tinted images of the rural idyll and reveal the tougher realities of life in rural Britain. We are incredibly grateful that the people in the film. James, Kelly and Cassie, told us their stories with such courage and clarity – what it really means to them to struggle on low incomes, with poor access to affordable housing, and the other public services that people in many towns and cities take for granted.

As we say in the film: “In rural communities right across the country, people feel ignored and disconnected from the policy decisions made in Westminster. It’s time for a countryside where local people can afford to live. A countryside with good public services which serve everyone in the community. A fair food system that supports farming families.”

Informed by these stories, we publish our recommendations for change this July.

For more information on the work we’re doing at the Commission, please visit: www.rsa.org/ffcc

God’s Lone Country from The RSA on Vimeo.

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