Alison has spent her career in community and economic development in rural areas, working for both public and voluntary organisations. She is a former Trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund, a former Board member of the Countryside Agency and Commission for Rural Communities and is currently a Governor at the Hereford College of Arts. Alison was awarded an OBE for services to rural affairs in 2010.
Public Service – summary:
- Countryside Agency Board member 2002 – 2006
- Commissioner – Commission for Rural Communities 2006 – 2009
- Chair Rural Social Justice Coalition 2007-2009
- Vice-chair of the West Midlands Regional Rural Affairs Forum 2005 – 2010
- Trustee National Heritage Memorial Fund (Heritage Lottery Fund), Audit Ctte 2008 – 2014
- Governor Hereford College of Arts (Vice Chair) 2011 – to date
The English countryside holds a special place in the heart of our cultural life. We celebrate it in poems and paintings, we cherish and protect it with legally binding designations. We walk in it, play in it, rest and revive in it. Even our television programmes proclaim the pleasures of rural life – an ‘escape’ from the pressures of modern urban living.
This attachment to the ‘rural idyll’ can bring many positives – stunning landscapes, attractive rural towns and villages, attention to the preservation of wildlife and biodiversity. But it can make it difficult for those living in rural communities to raise the profile of the difficulties and drawbacks of rural life. Small businesses without adequate access to broadband, over stretched public services, a rapidly ageing population, not enough training and jobs for young people who want to stay close to their families and friends, a combination of low wages and hopelessly expensive housing disrupting the balance of local communities – all are issues that can be difficult to articulate in the face of the common perceptions of rural living.
Hence the need for a really robust evidence base; excellent research will ensure that we make the right responses to the challenges of rural life and that we are ready to grasp the opportunities.
Rural England’s focus on researching rural issues and promoting debates arising from the findings is a real chance to address the current decline in the rural evidence base and lead us to a better understanding of what makes a difference to rural places and people.