Community spirit is at the heart of life here in Orkney, especially in our islands.
Local residents and community groups will often work together to launch projects, carry out jobs and generally help promote their home islands to the wider world. It’s a lot of work, but it can be so rewarding.
Now both Papa Westray and Westray have seen their efforts recognised at a prestigious annual awards ceremony in Glasgow.
The SURF Awards were launched to highlight regeneration projects in communities across Scotland, as well as celebrating the achievements of populations of all sizes in tackling some of the challenges of life on the edge.
The Papay Community Cooperative won the Community-Led Regeneration Award at the event for its work to help rejuvenate the island’s community by establishing a social and economic hub. Since its formation in 1979, the Coop has helped set-up a shop, visitor accommodation, an eco-workshop and much more.
The population of the island, home of the ancient Knap of Howar and the magnificent RSPB North Hill reserve, has increased from 54 in the 1990s to its current 85. The judges described the Cooperative as ‘resourceful and innovative’ – a tag line that could well describe Orkney as a whole!
Meanwhile, neighbouring Westray collected the title of Scotland’s Most Improved Place at the awards, beating off challenges from the likes of Dundee’s central waterfront and Fort William High Street.
The Westray Development Trust has been responsible for a number of projects since its formation in 1998, including installing one of Scotland’s first community-owned wind turbines, building a dedicated youth centre, establishing a community garden and setting up a bargain box shop, with more plans in the pipeline.
The judges highlighted the Trust’s strategic approach and the quality of the projects it has been responsible for over the years, ensuring a ‘thriving island and population, touching on all generations’.
Papa Westray and Westray are connected by the world’s shortest scheduled flight, but they’re both also linked by a special community spirit and a quiet and confident determination to make island life everything it can, and should, be.
The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020