The Village SOS National Conference was held on Monday 27th February 2012 at the Macdonald Burlington Hotel, Birmingham, and marked Plunkett Foundation's biggest event to date.
This landmark conference, which was also the largest event ever to be held for rural community enterprises, saw delegates, speakers, workshop facilitators and very special guests descend on Birmingham from across the UK to be inspired, enthused and motivated, but most of all to access the highest quality of information from the leading experts in the sector.
Delegates were welcomed by Peter Ainsworth, UK Chair of the Big Lottery Fund, who also presided over the day. Kicking off what was to be a wholly interactive day, the audience was immediately asked to vote (using an electronic voting system in the style of Who Wants to be a Millionaire!) on the question ‘What is the most significant barrier to running a social enterprise in your community?’, with a majority (54%) voting for ‘Getting your wider community fully engaged.’ This theme was then picked up throughout the day, with many speakers and workshop facilitators responding to this barrier with advice and information. Further questions were posed in ‘Ask the Audience’ style throughout the day; votes were also collected from the Village SOS exhibition stand, and delegates were also captured on camera voicing their thoughts on the key issues facing rural community enterprises today.
The morning proceeded with talks from Plunkett Foundation’s Peter Couchman; Karen Lowthrop from Hill Holt Wood; ACRE’s Sylvia Brown, and Peter Maher from Ennerdale Community Hub. Special guest and TV personality Matt Baker also took to the stage, painting a candid picture of his upbringing in the rural North East, highlighting his love of the countryside and keeping the audience entertained with humorous anecdotes! The afternoon saw workshops, 1-1 surgeries, networking time and debate sessions, as well as further keynote talks from Big Lottery Fund Director Judith Donovan, Talgarth Mill’s Bruce Gray and Niall McFerran from Ballygally Community Association. All the presentations and workshops are being uploaded here http://www.villagesos.org.uk/node/5211.
The day was a resounding success, with overwhelmingly positive feedback via the stand, Vox Pops, Twitter and Facebook; thank you to everyone who helped to make the day such an inspiring one for rural communities!
To view more photos from the day please click HERE.