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Every so often one has to stand up for what one Believes in. A couple of weeks ago I made a video encouraging the countryside to come and march for what they believe in. Recent times have seen attacks on our way of life. We actually now have an opportunity to go and show the world our side of this argument, show our passion and show our united strength.
This is the countryside rally 2019 - for many of you like me the countryside is a part of who you are. With over 40,000 people on the official page but no official register of attendance, we had no idea of what to expect. Welcome to London and welcome to The Countryside Rally 2019. We travelled up here this morning, we're running a little bit late with the traffic in London to get here. We're about 500 yards from Speakers Corner - Let's go see what's occurring.
Organiser: “Good afternoon everybody! Welcome to The Countryside Rally and all those who are joining The Countryside Rally if I could ask you to all congregate around this area. First and foremost thank you all so much for coming out today to London and I’m grateful for everyone who has come. I know some of you have traveled the length and breadth of the UK to be here today so your support is greatly appreciated and I'm sure those who can't be here today because they're farming, they've got pens ready Etc. are very grateful for the support.
I think It's fair to say that since we just over two months ago we started with The Countryside Rally, the whole premise here is about uniting the countryside and this is just the start of a whole series of events that we're going to be organising over the next few years to really start turning the tide in the countryside.”
“I know a lot of people are feeling that things are happening to them, you know, we don't have a voice, we’re not entirely sure what's going on and you know, our heritage, our traditions, our landscape and our field sports are all being slowly whittled away and what we're really going to be starting to do now is working with general public and start educating and saying, this is what the countryside is about.”
“I'm just glad that you're all here. This is the core and you people are at the very Grassroots. You're going to be the start of something truly amazing and I'm sure we can all look back in three years time and say If we hadn't taken action today, we would’ve lost our heritage, our traditions and our Field Sports. So for that I thank you all for coming here today. You know, it's very easy to post on Facebook and very easy to do all of those things, but the biggest thing that changes this country is people taking action and what we have here is a group of countryside champions who are prepared to stand up and take action and for that I applaud you.”
We’re now dragging along right behind the march. It’s a thousand degrees today; It’s unbelievably and unbearably hot. There’s about 200-240 people out in front of us and every single one has come to represent the countryside and what it means to them. I'm really glad to have been here. I'm not sure what it means but standing up and being counted always means something.
Anyway, what we're going to do is we’re going to go and find the people who organise this and perhaps even David Wright - and have a little chat about it.
“And a big hand to the organisers! Thank you to everyone for turning up, it's not a big turnout, but this is the start of it. We've got some things coming up in the next few months. Obviously as you know we've got a Facebook page, just keep an eye on that and what we do on that, then you'll see the events that are coming up.
But on behalf of me and Ian, thank you very much for everybody traveling down, spending your time coming to see us.
Questions with the organisers
Jonny: “What was the aim of The Countryside Rally?”
Organiser: “So really with the general licence, the big thing was that it wasn't just about shooting. It had an impact on Farming and it was a legal challenge. What was apparent is that this keeps happening. There are legal challenges, there are issues and what we want to do is actually as a Countryside we've got to unite.
Because you know, this is going to continue to happen. So the whole principle about this is to unite the countryside. There's a lot of misinformation, so let's organise a rally - not a protest or a demonstration - let's organise a rally in London and actually start to go forward with a message that says we are the countryside, hi we're not bad people. We don't believe in all the publicity that’s out there and really mobilise and get out there and start saying ‘this is enough’.
We ran a poll a few weeks ago and the main issues were field-sports. We're losing our field sports, our education in schools around the countryside and the next generation - who are the next generation that are going to come through and carry on the sports the traditions that we’re about? So I think the rally is just the start of bringing everyone together as a countryside and actually start to represent ourselves stronger within the public. Not really within parliament's you know, it seems like we’re doing a fantastic job there, it’s actually the public.”
Jonny: So I know this is the biggest thing most people have said to me. Apart from that it was a bad time of year but in reality we couldn't help that, when is it good? Yeah, the biggest thing is that there was no support, seemingly, from the big organizations, which would have made a lot of difference. What are your thoughts on that?
Organiser: “Yes, we spoke to all the organizations, told them what we're up to. The Countryside Alliance has been very supportive in making sure we organise it correctly. Certainly from our perspective we start off as a grassroots movement. We never really anticipated getting that support. It would've been great if we did, but it wasn't a ‘look at this great idea - can you help us?’”.
“Everything we've done has been funded out of our own pockets. We've done the advertising, the travelling, the meetings and we've spent a good £17,000 out of our own pocket.
The Rally hasn't been funded by anybody else this has come out of our own individual pockets. We’ve had people with, you know, come up to us and say, you know, we'll be a donator but we're not doing it for a donation - we’re doing it for the bigger picture and a passion for the countryside.
We don't want people turning around a bit later on and saying to us, actually these lads have made a living out of this as such, when that's not the point. It's not the point where you know, we've come here as we did, two working class people, we both work and we want to stand up for the rights of the countryside.”
Jonny: “What’s in the future, what’s on the Horizon?”
Organiser: “Where we come from now is encouraging other people to take on rallies. Start talking to the public, but you know the concept that we’re working towards is what we call The Countryside Festival, you know, it's an idea around the celebration of the countryside. There are a lot of events going on, but often they're in the countryside and we're talking to people, having meetings in London about organising something in London.
So it’s Hyde Park areas etc. bringing it into the people who don't have access, not preaching to the countryside. Instead of us obviously walking down doing a rally like we've done today, we’ll have a few stalls set up so that people can come in, they can try venison burger, they can try venison sausage, you know, or pheasant burger - try bits that are from the countryside, wild stuffing, instead of seeing stuff that they think is murdered, slaughtered and chucked away but it's actually used as to support foods.”
Jonny: “You know and giving people even the bigger picture on green crops most exactly - we've all been shouted at by a few vegans today!”
Organiser: “Yeah, you know we don't have to say do this do that. It's literally giving people the other side of the coin; this is where your food comes from, this is what the countryside's about and people can make an informed decision. But you know, there's so many people that live in towns etcetera who don't know what the countryside is about and so it's about giving them the opportunity to understand and learn from it. Meet the hounds, meet people who go shooting, understand how this works and how that works, and then people are more educated and can make a more informed decision.
Jonny: “Yeah because actually, not everyone in the countryside supports everything, but at least they understand it around each other and it's about understanding and going ‘It has to go on, whether you like it or not.”
Organiser: “It’s a part of our heritage, it’s part of our tradition. It's part of you know, I think even more so now where the world is as it is with farming and everything, the countryside; we have to look after it.
Detachment. Exactly, it’s increased detachment from the countryside into the city, and education is what we need to do.”
Jonny: “I'm with you and I think that educational PR is something all of our big organisations need to work on big time because that’s the future. They’re all very concerned with defense but I don't think there’s a lot of future in just putting up walls.”
“Do you have any words for the people who aren't here?”
Organiser: Yeah I do. You know what I'll say is that everybody that marched here marched for everyone who isn’t here and couldn't be here. We understand that, you know, it's not easy to get into London for people with families. They've got farms, they've got jobs Etc. - we get that. I think the only thing is, is that we’ve seen expressions on faces that are like ‘oh it's not going to make a difference, it won't change, you're wasting your time and damaging the industry. But our industry's been damaged without us doing anything; we've been doing nothing and it doesn't work.
Never in the history of anything has sitting back produced change. So we’re making a difference. People may not agree with what we did and that's fair enough, but we’ve made a difference.”
Jonny: “They’re welcome to go and do something else.”
Organiser: “Exactly. You know, we're just two guys who got a rally, we've got a couple hundred people together, that's fine.”
Jonny: “I think you’ve done really well.”
Organiser: “And if people want to go off and do something else - if they want to go and educate the local school, if they want to do a social media campaign, please go do it, but I think what we've got to do as an industry is stop criticising people who are doing things and saying ‘I wouldn’t do that’. We've got to start saying actually that's great. And we talk about it a lot. You know, those that are opposed to our field life, you know and field-sports. You never see them fighting. You never see five people that are protesting against grouse shooting and against cruel sports going ‘Well that was a waste of time. Look what you've done to us guys’. No, they go ‘well done that's five of you that stood up. Fantastic.’”
Jonny: “And I'll tell you what, they people know more about them than they do about us, the field sports community is filled with negative people. Every community is but our community seems to be very negative towards any change. We need to change. So we might as well dictate the change ourselves.
Guys, Thank you very very much for this.”
So with a head count of just over 150 people the countryside rally was rather Bittersweet, but what did I take away from it?
The world is changing all around us. We’re being left for dust in an increasingly digital world. I'm not talking about compromising on tradition, but I’m talking about uniting and proactively sharing our passion for the countryside. There were people at that march from all walks of life; Farmers, Shooters, Hunters, Soldiers, Business owners - all with a unique bond that’s the countryside. We should all strive to be better ambassadors for our way of life. We have a serious PR problem. And we regular people are on the front line. This is the time for change.