Rural Talks to Rural conference returning virtually this November
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
This November’s Rural Talks to Rural (R2R) conference, organized by the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity, will be moving ahead virtually and organizers are asking for participation from across the country.
The virtual conference is planned from Nov. 16-28. Smith says he is scheduling lunchtime sessions and nightly sessions and while the original plan was to have sessions every two days, Smith says planning has gone well, so the sessions may be daily by the time November arrives.
Smith said many of the panels and other aspects of the conference are still being organized and finalized, but for others, he is hoping members of the community and beyond will help provide some content.
First and foremost is the “End of the Lane” conversations, which came about as a result of an exchange between Smith and Keith Roulston, founder of The Citizen, co-founder of the Blyth Festival and a driving force behind the conference when it was first held in 2016.
Smith said that, in speaking with Roulston, the idea of two neighbours speaking at the end of their laneways when they go to retrieve their mail proved to be fruitful. Smith, quoting Roulston, said that while there are a million different ways to be in touch with neighbours and friends now, there will always be something special about a face-to-face conversation like those at the end of the lane. So, Smith is hoping people will record conversations with their neighbours asking simple questions like how they’re doing and submit those videos to being featured in the conference.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit people in many different ways, Smith said, so checking in with a friend or a neighbour is more important than ever. In rural areas of Canada, the challenges can be different, he said, and he’s hoping those conversations, as part of the conference, can help tell the story.
Submissions can be sent to Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smith says he, through Al Lauzon, who has been at both conferences thus far, has enlisted the help of university students to help determine the form and direction of this year’s conference.
One of the prevailing questions that came out of those discussions is what the future will be for rural communities. That will be something the conference will seek to explore in its two-week run.
From the inception of the conference, Smith said, the University of Guelph has been a great supporter of R2R.
Smith said the virtual format will open the conference to many new opportunities, including the recording of seminars so they can be watched live or later by those attending. He also said it will make it possible for people from all over the world to take part for minimal cost.
The lunchtime sessions being planned for the conference will be compiled under the title, “This Rural Life” and they will explore numerous aspects of rural life in 2020 and beyond, Smith said.
Those discussions will mimic conversations around the lunch table, while another aspect of the conference will be food oriented with the help of Exeter chef and restaurateur James Eddington.
Smith’s hope is that Eddington will make available a recipe that utilizes locally-sourced ingredients early in one of the weeks of the conference, allowing people time to gather what they need. Eddington will then release a video of him making the recipe and then finally there will be a set time to have the recipe completed so that everyone can have dinner together, virtually.
More information on the conference, including panels and panelists, will be released in the coming weeks. To take part in the “End of the Lane” project, simply record a video between three and five minutes in length of a conversation between you and a neighbour, friend or family member and e-mail it to Smith at email@example.com. Smith is hoping to find unique stories of life during a pandemic in rural Canada.