Countryside connections: Staying in the countryside


Prof Aileen Stockdale, Queen's University Belfast

Dr. Tialda Haartsen, University of Groningen



Contemporary life is characterised by mobility/migration.  Within a rural context young adults frequently report a 'rural dull' and feel a need to 'move out to get on', young families move in in search of a 'good place to bring up children', and retirees may harbour a desire for a 'place in the country' and the rural idyll.  Such migration processes, linked to life course stages, are frequently documented in the academic literature and government reports. 


Much less attention has been devoted to those who 'stay' in rural areas.

Indeed, to stay is often negatively stereotyped as 'staying behind' or having 'failed to leave' - individuals lacking ambition and 'making do' in a traditional, even disadvantaged, rural. This interdisciplinary working group seeks to comprehend  why some people remain in rural places, how they experience rural life, what  roles they play in maintaining a sustainable rural and how they contribute to quality of life in rural communities.  By doing so, this session draws attention to the perspective of immobility in understanding contemporary rural life and to assess the role of 'stayers' to uneven processes of rural change. 


Papers are invited on any aspect of 'staying in the countryside', such as:

  • Who stays - a life course perspective: for example, why do young adults choose to remain, when leaving is the norm; why do elderly residents stay when familial and state support for old age is located in distant urban centres; how do newcomers to the countryside ‘learn’ to stay?
  • Why stay - do stayers make a conscious choice/ decision to remain or are they trapped, 'unable to escape'?
  • What meanings do stayers attach to the rural, rurality and 'home' (sense of attachment, belonging, rootedness, quality of life)?
  • Lived experiences: what are the everyday realities for those who stay?  What is the role of stayers in maintaining sustainable rural communities?
  • Rural diversity: are different 'stayer' processes at work and outcomes evident in different rural areas? 
  • Gendered processes and experiences
  • What are the policy issues associated with 'stayers and staying'?  Might policy permit 'staying in rural place'?


10 minute presentations followed by a 10 minute discussion for each participant.  The session ends with an interactive Round Table discussion with session participants and the audience.  Topics are introduced by the session organizers, based on the content of the papers.