Rural Talks to Rural comes to Brussels next week
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Next week, the fourth Rural Talks to Rural (R2R) conference will go ahead at the Four Winds Barn in Brussels, marking the first time the conference has been held outside of its unofficial home of Blyth.
Hosted by the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity, the four-day event runs from Oct. 17-20 and each day comes with a specific focus. Day one is all about wellbeing, while day two will take aim at housing, day three will focus on climate and community and the fourth day will look ahead to future considerations and include art and the R2R Market.
The first two conferences were held in Blyth, while the third conference, held in 2020, was completely virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paul Nichol of Community Futures Huron has been part of the planning committee and has attended past conferences. He says that bringing the conference to Brussels, specifically the Four Winds Barn, is a great thing for the village.
He says the plan to bring the conference to Brussels was already taking shape about six months ago when it became clear that Memorial Hall in Blyth wouldn’t be available for the conference this fall. For this year’s event, Nichol hopes that while it will bring people to Brussels from rural communities all over the country, it will also attract Brussels residents to take part in events like the Oct. 19 concert featuring Al Lerman, which is open to all, and the Oct. 20 R2R Market and Nichol’s own walkabout, which are both open to everyone.
Nichol says it’s important that the people of Brussels feel welcome to participate in this community event and that it’s not just being held in the village, apart from those who live within it.
The whole concept of the conference, from its inception from a concept by Citizen and Blyth Festival co-founder Keith Roulston, is about bringing rural people together to discuss the issues they’re facing and the opportunities they may have, all over the country.
Nichol says that one thing the conference has made abundantly clear in previous years is just how different rural communities are from one another and just how similar they are at the same time.
Many of the problems or issues are the same, but there can also be similar opportunities as well.
The first day, on Monday, Oct. 17, carries the theme of wellbeing and is presented in partnership with the Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health.
Ron Thomas, a Six Nations advanced care paramedic, will open the conference with a discussion on Indigenous healing, specifically regarding post-traumatic stress disorder and how Indigenous knowledge is impacting community wellbeing.
Dr. Baretta R. Casey, former director at the Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard, Kentucky, will give that morning’s keynote address. She plans on sharing her journey from being a rural doctor to the creation of rural health and wellbeing centres all over the world.
After lunch, Gateway President and Founder Gwen Devereaux will bring Dr. Casey back for a conversation about Gateway and the centre in Kentucky that inspired it.
There will then be workshops on percussion and non-violent communication before a “junk food pairing” with Bad Apple Brewing, Hessenland Shatz Winery and Cornerfield Winery for the day’s “sundowner” just ahead of dinner.
On the second day, presented in partnership with Huron County and the Rural Ontario Institute, Nancy Orr of Orr and Associates and Zorra Township Mayor Marcus Ryan will speak about housing, the day’s theme.
There will then be a two-part workshop entitled “Bias Towards Action”. The workshop will be led by Ryan, Orr and Connor Dorey from the County of Lennox-Addington, followed by a panel discussion with the United Way of Perth Huron.
That afternoon, guest speaker Pauline MacIntosh of the Coady Institute in Nova Scotia will discuss the work being done in Nova Scotia as it pertains to attainable and affordable housing.
This will be followed by an interactive game called Home, developed by game designer Nolan Wadsworth in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativitiy and the Rural Ontario Institute. The game is billed as a collaborative storytelling and teaching tool designed to help communities have more productive conversations about affordable and attainable housing.
On the third day, which focuses on climate and community, Sammie Orr, a Grade 12 student and climate activist will speak about jumping into the climate movement as a Grade 7 student and where that journey is today.
The day’s panel discussion, on climate adaptation, will feature recovery specialist and artist Deb Borsos as the moderator, Huron Forest Conservation Officer Dave Pullen, climate change and energy specialist Derry Wallis, Alessandra Jerollman from the southern United States and Christian George, virtually, from Australia.
Patrick Mitchell, a Nlaka’pamux leader and former Chief of Kanaka Bar Indian Band in British Columbia will give that afternoon’s keynote address, followed by a panel discussion on business, climate and community.
Sarah Syed, a poet and science researcher, will then be the guest speaker for the late-afternoon session, followed by a walkabout hosted by Nichol, who will take those participating on a walk to visit with some people before travelling to the Maitland River near Logan’s Mill.
That night, beginning at 8 p.m., Juno and Maple Blues Award-winning musician Al Lerman and his trio will perform at the barn. That concert, which was made possible thanks to the help of Jim Lee, the former owner of Cinnamon Jim’s, will be open to everyone.
After presenting sessions over the first three days, Mary Doyle, CEO of Rural on Purpose, will complete her foresight-building excercise on the fourth and final day before giving her keynote address, entitled “Think Like a Futurist”.
Artist Mags Lapine will then present artwork she created over the course of the conference, followed by the R2R Market, lunch and the official end of the conference.
For more information, a full schedule or to register, visit ruralcreativity.org.