There is an irony in organising rural conferences. Another recent one would have gladdened FErret's heart, located as it was in an agricultural college. The complaints about the sheer impossibility of getting there on time and home again were scorched on the evaluations and eclipsed all other aspects. It was a perfect demonstration of the rural learning experience, you may think, but this cut no ice with the grumbling delegates and did nothing to spur them to address barriers to rural learning.
The urban location for our Sheffield conference on Learning, Employment and Rural Need did not, of course, pass unnoticed on the day. A hundred or so attended, from a very wide range of policy, practitioner and academic backgrounds, showing the momentum of interest in rurality. All agreed that policy is not kind to rural learners, and that more needs to happen for country people and communities.
Urban location? Yes, guilty as charged. But, in the true spirit of courtroom drama, we have an extenuating circumstance to reveal: the Megacentre in Sheffield is a conversion from the old factory of Spear and Jackson, manufacturers of agricultural equipment.