The ØY Festival is an annual three-day festival of islands, held every November at The Kelp Store on Papa Westray, one of the northern islands of the Orkney archipelago. The festival is directed and curated by artists Jonathan Ford and Saoirse Higgins. The festival is supported by the Orkney Islands Council Culture Fund, the Papa Westray Community Council and the Papay Development Trust.

The ØY Festival manifesto:
“Illuminated by the light of the moon and under natures gaze, islands have taken their own evolutionary path, developing individual visions of culture and ecol- ogy. These island systems of language, folklore, ecology, architecture, craft and making are a beacon to us all. Island identity serves as a testament to human ingenuity and resourcefulness. The ØY festival celebrates this and seeks to innovate by collaborating creatively on such notions of island identity.”  Jonathan Ford 2018

Øy is a translation of the Norse for ‘islands’. It is our fourth year of the festival after taking a break in 2019, we hope it will remain an annual festival of islands on Papay, focusing on a different aspect of islands each year.

ØY 2018 website:

The festival is aimed at a wide range of participants and audience, both from the local Orkney community and interesting and interested visitors. This includes makers, artists and scientists/experts from Papay, as well as those from Orkney wide and around the world. The festival is a mixture of exhibition, film screenings, live performance and workshops across the whole weekend, with the traditional Papay ‘Muckle Supper’ as the centrepiece, a magnetic event if there ever was one.

Ultimately we see the ØY festival as an opportunity for the community to get together and enjoy the programme and think about their own island in the context of other islands in the world.Together with artists, writers, scientists and film makers, the island community will explore the many facets of the island context, and enjoy themselves doing it. With our programme we aim to reach a good proportion of the island population, appealing to a broad cross section interested in contemporary culture mixed with traditional heritage.

Our workshops aim to get the young folk out and engaged and having some creative playful fun with the theme. We also hope to attract visitors to the island in what is traditionally a quiet time of year, bringing much needed extra income into the hostel and the island shop. Usually small island community buildings are used in multiple ways through out the year and The Kelp Store, our fantastic arts and heritage centre, is no exception. We see this as an ideal space to hold a festival that hosts a very wide range of events.

Over the Festival weekend the space will be transformed from an exhibition space to a cinema, a workshop, a lecture theatre, a performance space and even to a disco (with special disco ball). The Kelp Store has the facilities to provide meals and refreshments throughout the festival, which promotes it as a social space within the programme. The ØY Festival has become a regular annual Kelp Store event and part of the fabric of the island calendar, among the many events and activites that happen on the island.