30 Years of ACRE

30 Years of ACRE
06 December 2017 by Chris Cowcher,

30 Years of ACRE

Last week was a pretty busy one for me. It began with the CLT Conference on Monday, hearing the fantastic news from Alok Sharma MP about continued investment in Community led Housing over the next 3-4 years. Then I was with Plunkett Foundation at their Rural Co-Operatives stakeholder engagement meeting planning some really interesting and innovative activities for ACRE and the ACRE Network to support and join in with in 2018. I finished the week recording a piece for Farming Today on Rural Health but sandwiched in the middle of the week it was time to celebrate the big 3-0, as ACRE turned 30 years old. In the company of friends, colleagues and partners we toasted the milestone and looked to the future.

Here’s to next 30 years, let us see where they may take ACRE and the rural communities in England whom we serve.

ACRE’s AGM was a wonderful event to be a part of. Yes, we had all the usual business to attend with at an AGM, expertly guided by our Chair, David Emerson CBE and then we moved on to an event solely focussing on all things rural. ACRE was very fortunate that Margaret Clark CBE, Chair of the Rural Coalition and also Plunkett Foundation agreed to start the event off with an abbreviated history of collective rural action over the past 30 years. Have a look at our ‘ACRE 30 Years Road Map’ image. With Margaret’s guidance we considered how an organisation such as ACRE has evolved and developed over the past three decades. Proudly representing the 38 members of the ACRE Network, utilising their collective reach and experience to champion the rural voice in national debate has been at the core of ACRE’s activity since we were established.

We were very fortunate to have Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biodiversity present at the AGM. He followed Margaret’s introduction by setting out how government was listening to rural communities. Defra’s funding enables the ACRE Network to engage with their rural communities and provides the opportunity to represent their views, needs and values in the very heart of government. Lord Gardiner used his own experiences of working with his local parish council to celebrate the tireless work of volunteers, a truly important part of rural communities. It was positive to hear the reaffirmation of the Government’s commitment to rural areas. The Minister recognised volunteers as being at the heart of local action – something which is at the very core of the work undertaken by the ACRE Network.

The ACRE Network was also represented in proceedings with presentations from Gloucestershire RCC, Community Council for Somerset, Community Action Northumberland, Action in rural Sussex and Community First Yorkshire. At the finish the room was a buzz with networking, business card swapping and chatter as Lord Gardiner, Margaret Clark, David and Richard cut a cake bearing the words “ACRE 30”. All of this was going on in front of a back drop of pull-up banners from members of the ACRE Network, which demonstrated the unique and individual collective of organisations who keep ACRE going – it was a sight to be seen and certainly remembered. You can see some of the online interactions on the day by searching for #ACRE30Years on Twitter.

Here’s to next 30 years, let us see where they may take ACRE and the rural communities in England whom we serve.