A new film about low income rural Britain - RSA

A new film about low income rural Britain

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  • Picture of Elliot Kett
    Elliot Kett
    Project and Engagement Manager, Food, Farming and Countryside Commission
  • Economics and Finance
  • Public Services & Communities
  • Communities

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 Food, Farming & Countryside Commission to expose the very real problems facing rural communities and give a voice to the millions of ordinary people who live in our countryside.

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

The film features:

  • James Metcalfe, 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, 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 spent 18 years searching for a permanent home.
  • Kelly Shaw, 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 we 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.

The RSA Food, Farming & Countryside Commission

The Commission has spent the last 18 months investigating how policy, business and community currently shape our food and farming systems and rural communities – what works, what doesn’t, and how a more integrated and inclusive approach could drive improved prospects for rural livelihoods.

We recently celebrated the inspiring stories heard on our national bike tour of rural Britain last year in a new book, Fork in the Road, but through this film, we tell the other side of the story.

We commissioned this film to challenge our rose-tinted images of the rural idyll and reveal the tougher realities of life in rural Britain. It tells the stories of three people struggling on low incomes, with poor access to affordable housing and public services. 

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 every community. A fair food system that supports farming families.”

The film is produced and directed by Anna Jones and narrated by Kate Beavan.

God’s Lone Country is a Together TV production.

Together TV will broadcast the film on Monday 29th April at 9.45pm, with repeats on Thursday 2nd May at 10.15pm, Friday the 3rd at 10.15pm and Monday the 6th at 9.45pm.

Together is on Freeview 89, Sky 194, Virgin 269, Freesat 164.

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  • Thanks for your comments. We heard many inspiring stories from our UK tour, a selection of which are contained in our Fork in the Road publication and more will feature in our final reports.  But we also wanted to show the other side of rural life, which is rarely discussed. The side which reveals that poverty and exclusion, isolation and loneliness, and people working incredibly hard to overcome systemic failures and inadequate investment in public services, are not just features of urban living.  Too often, we meet people who have a very partial view of the countryside - every village is a rural idyll, every farmer drives a range rover and living in the countryside is a 'lifestyle choice'.  James, Cassie and Kelly, telling their stories with such courage and clarity, require us to think much more deeply about the complex issues - the price we pay for food; the investment in public transport away from the high-profile projects; what it really costs to live and work in rural Britain.

  • Very nicely produced. Superior shooting, editing and storytelling. You accomplished a great deal in a short time frame. Certainly much of this applies to the US, and I suspect, to other places, too.

    One question—if The RSA is a film producer or distributor, is there some sort of strategic plan for topic selection, target audience, funding, marketing, distribution and so on? Or this effort more of a come-as-you are? I ask because there is opportunity here, and because I would be happy to lend an experienced hand.

  • This is a very thoughtful piece, and I have a great deal of sympathy with the families featured here. I know the Peak District well and in fact my daughter lived for some years in Castleton which features in the opening scene. But I suspect the stories that are featured have more to do with the North South divide than with the modern rural economy.

    I hope that the work we did here in the South West with you and your team, Elliot, was a lot more upbeat than the picture painted in this sad film. In my experience, the people working in the Countryside here in the South West simply want a level playing field: a Government Policy that promotes food security and reflects our high welfare standards by preventing cheap imports.

    Give them that and they will continue to produce the food we need in a sustainable way and at a fair price whilst using their ingenuity to diversify into new and exciting areas - and they will continue to make people like me hugely proud of my roots in the Countryside.

  • The main problem here is the effect of the 'cheap food' farming policy and supermarkets disconnecting consumers from producers. This has resulted in decreasing food knowledge and farmers growing commodities instead of food and on average only getting 9p in every £1 spent on food in the supermarket.

    Low food knowledge means a greater reliance on ready meals and fast food and why 20% of NHS spend is now on food related disease.

    To fix this mess we need 

    1.  Food growing, cooking and nutrition on the school curriculum (quite easy when 14,000 of our 26,000 schools already have a veg patch or garden and organisations like the RHS, BigBarm, Slow Food & Garden Organic already have the teaching notes)

    2.  Have a Local Food Map that everyone can use and share so that farmers can grow food for local people and get 100% of the retail price.