Safe Spaces

When I’m not at work I’m involved in a local church, and the role I have means that recently I had to refresh my safeguarding training. The first instalment of the training is called ‘Creating Safer Spaces’, which included awareness of how the physical spaces that we occupy can influence safe behaviour.

A few days later, I’m back in the office and my mind wanders to the question, what does “safe space” mean here?

What we have created is a space that for many will be far removed from “Business As Usual”. A place where different things can happen. In the (attributed) words of Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” But doing things differently can be difficult when we are in our usual place.

So away from ‘normal’ life, with ‘normal’ expectations, we have found that Like Work But Different provides:

  • an environment where you are safe to think outside the box.
  • a space where you are safe to be creative.
  • a safe place for difficult questions to be asked and where radical solutions can be proposed.

It might seem a bit ‘out there’ and strange, but this safe place could be where your next big idea is waiting… 



What’s the plan? Who gets to vote? Who’s in charge?

I’m very bothered about all of this.

And yet, all these questions can fade into the background when confronted with the reality of early spring here.

Instead, our focus is on the trees erupting into leaf, on the clouds of Blackthorn blossom, on wild flowers and insects buzzing around them, on the increasingly noisy dawn chorus, and on new lambs bouncing around the fields. Being at arm’s length definitely gives a different perspective to the political shenanigans of Westminster, but we are not unaffected by what happens there.

One example:

Farmers manage the landscape as they farm – growing livestock or arable crops in response to the economic environment and the incentives that politicians design. Here, where the land quality is marginal for farming, most of the land is only suitable for sheep. 

Will that continue? That all depends on the price and profit for sheep farmers. If we leave the EU then tariffs are likely to transform the export market. And the subsidies paid by the CAP will disappear, replaced with… who knows?

Exports become too expensive, so prices have to drop to make any sales overseas. Demand for Welsh Lamb plummets. So with very few sales and all those at uneconomic prices, no-one can make a living as a sheep farmer any more. The result? No more sheep. 

What instead? More trees? Do we ‘re-wild’ the countryside introducing wolves or wild boars, beavers or lynx? Or something else?

Any of these options would have a dramatic impact on what the countryside looks like.

What we like to think of as the unchanging, timeless British countryside would very rapidly prove to be anything but. The Brexit arguments and decisions seem distant, but the fallout will be far-reaching. Even in the countryside, we shouldn’t take what we have for granted.

So I’m going back outside to make the most of the blossom and the new growth, the birds, the bees and the lambs, ‘cos the outlook for all of them may be very different in the not-too distant future…