For the Commission to understand the reality of UK food, farming and countryside, we need to go on the road. Between April and November our team will wend its way through dozens of villages and towns throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, listening to people who have been much talked about but little heard in debates on food, farming and the countryside, and recording what they tell us about their hopes, needs, challenges and success stories.
Why by bike?
Cycling the country in pursuit of a new conversation has a rich tradition in the UK. In 1893 sixteen year old Tessie Reynolds cycled from Brighton to London and back in a day, unconventionally wearing pantaloons and a shirt, causing outrage to Victorian England. But her actions started a movement that ultimately changed the cultural convention on women’s dress. In 1895 self-organising readers of the socialist magazine The Clarion formed a network of cycle clubs around the country, to inspire conversations around socialist issues. For decades the Critical Mass movement has been gathering to reclaim the streets using the humble bicycle. A movement without a specific aim, at least not one universally agreed, the monthly cycles trigger conversations and celebrate differences of view.
Travelling on bicycle is slow in this fast paced world. As you travel you have time to notice what is growing in the fields. You notice the subtle changes of the trees through the seasons. You find yourself on country roads talking to dog walkers and in country pubs hearing the stories of generations.
Get in touch if you would like to arrange to meet us en route
Share your ideas of what we should see en route, using #ffccontheroad on Twitter or Instagram
The tour will combine ethnographic tradition with conversation and interview. Researchers will record their experiences through photograph, video and diary to share their personal perspectives and insights. On route researchers will be meeting with farmers, food distributors, manufacturers, retailers, contractors, interest groups, shoppers, parents, teachers, healthcare professionals, patients, school children and more. By working with industry experts and citizens the Commission aims to understand how public perception and values differ and align with the reality of our food, farming and countryside.
Our approach is to join people in their own worlds. We are visiting farms, going on tours of factories, attending WI meetings, hosting sessions in schools, visiting hospital catering and joining people in their supermarket trips. We’ll conduct our interviews in relaxed and informal settings in which the researcher steps into the world of the interviewee. The interviews will be minimally structured, to ensure conversations can flow and genuine values, concerns and ideas can emerge. This approach is intended to upend the pedagogy of consultation.