• Robin Palmer Ceramics, Orkney

Reconnect with creative Orkney

It's more important than ever for both locals and visitors to reconnect with Orkney. David Flanagan has been contemplating our creative community and how they've handled the last few months.

Orkney’s a practically minded place – that just comes with the territory when you’re an island community – but it’s also an intensely creative environment, one which has inspired artists, writers, musicians and craftspeople for generations.

There’s also an important economic element to such a wonderfully diverse output, with our creative industries supporting many local jobs and drawing countless visitors here too.

Financially, lockdown impacted hard on our creative community, with the full spectrum of businesses - from individual makers to larger crafts producers - all feeling its effects. Psychologically, the pandemic was more of a mixed bag for this passionate and expressive group.

The silence and solitude of lockdown suited many, removing distractions and intensifying the focus on their work.

Jewellery designer Zoe Davidson at work in Orkney

For others though - particularly the craftspeople whose businesses form part of Orkney’s popular Creative Trail – the restrictions spirited away an important human element from their day. No longer could they demonstrate their work to visitors, talk about their processes and inspiration, or just shoot the breeze about the islands.

Yet, if you’re a creative person, darkness and uncertainty can be remarkably inspirational.

Our restless, innovative and enormously talented craftspeople have danced to the odd, discordant tune of Covid-19 and come up with all manner of fresh ideas and new approaches to their work.

They’ve also witnessed just how much the rest of the world loves what they do, even when visiting hasn’t been an option, with a steady online demand for their products throughout the crisis.

Now, as lockdown eases, we all have the chance to connect with our makers again, whether we’re fortunate enough to call Orkney home, or just visiting for a while.

We’ve always celebrated creativity, and respected craftsmanship in Orkney. There’s a collective pride when one of our own makes their mark in the world with something they’ve designed or produced. Equally, our makers - fiercely independent and distinctive in terms of their work - recognise they each contribute to something much bigger.

In marketing speak, it’s all about being part of the Orkney brand, but in reality it runs much deeper than this.

Quite simply, those who choose to draw inspiration from Orkney, and share what they create with others, know they must honour the islands at every stage in the process.

That’s the basis for everything we do in Orkney, with our creative goods representing our values as a community. It’s why, during the good times and the bad, people will always desire a little piece of our islands.

If you're planning to reconnect with Orkney this year, take a look at our special COVID-19 section for all the information you need on travelling to the islands during the Coronavirus pandemic, including FAQs, what's open and the latest travel advice.

The Promoting Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.

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