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Scottish communities share in lessons from Orkney’s culture

24 January 2012

A report into the social and economic advantages of Orkney's culture is to be shared with communities across Scotland delivering arts and heritage activities.

Commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and written by social researcher François Matarasso the report highlights how Orcadians have developed a unique cultural lifestyle which is a major draw for international tourists to the islands. Its findings show how community leadership, a strong ethos of volunteering and working together have combined with the natural archaeological and historical assets of the islands to develop a cohesive cultural identity.

Chessa Llewellyn-White of HIE said: "HIE wanted to carry out this research as we recognised that Orkney has been particularly successful in this field. Looking at success stories like the St Magnus International Festival, the Pier Arts Centre and craft industries, we wanted to see if there were lessons which could be transferred to other parts of the region and to ensure continued success in Orkney."

"This is an excellent report which uncovers how Orkney has achieved its well-deserved cultural reputation. The insight that it provides into the conditions that have helped the sector to grow will help to shape any future cultural support programmes."

"In undertaking this research François consulted widely but also took the time to experience first hand what Orkney has to offer. His report includes the views of event organisers and also those of the audience members that he met. "

The report offers recommendations to other arts bodies including advice that they should focus on how Orkney has developed culturally, rather than replicating the specific festivals and events. It suggests that answers lie in communities finding value in their own cultural assets.

Robert Livingston of HI-Arts commented: "Every part of the Highlands and Islands has a unique cultural story to tell, but in Orkney's case that story is of particular interest because so many recent cultural developments have become so central to the islands' identity, community, and economy. Orkney's story therefore makes an ideal case study, and François Matarasso has told that story with insight and empathy.'

Researcher François Matarasso spent six month working on the project. He said: "Orkney's cultural life is exceptional in its richness, quality and variety. So many people are involved in so much activity that the study would need to be two or three times as long to account for it all. But the important and interesting question is why - why an archipelago of 20,000 is such a cultural lively place. I hope the report goes some way to answering that question and that the answers may be helpful to people involved in promoting arts and culture elsewhere in the Highlands and islands or indeed further afield."

Councillor Stephen Hagan, Convener of Orkney Islands Council, said: "I welcome this important study into the rich and varied cultural activity that contributes so much to the life of our community.

"It is an impressive piece of work and its author - a much respected expert in his field - provides a wealth of evidence that Orkney is exceptionally successful, with cultural assets of national and international importance.

"We have much to be proud of and much to enjoy in our heritage, literature and crafts, and in our performing and visual arts. The vibrancy of Orkney's cultural mix shines through in this extremely positive report."


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