What is the aim of the project?
To address the potential loss of a vital community hub.
Where is it taking place?
With a declining population, the island of Bressay, east of mainland Shetland, faces several challenges.
What has been achieved?
In the early 2000s, Bressay’s population began to decline, falling from 384 in 2001 to around 340 today. The population was also ageing and depleting numbers of children attending Bressay School contributed to its closure in 2014. Although alternative education provision was found off‐island, the closure resulted in the loss of vital communal space. Situated centrally in the island, the school had also been the heart of the local community, an important hub bringing together neighbours of all ages.
There was strong desire within the community to repurpose the school and multi‐court to retain communal space and ensure community ownership of the facilities. Community feedback identified an appetite for amenities to be provided on the island, rather than relying on services available in Lerwick, a ferry‐ride away. Residents felt there was a need for enhanced catering facilities for locals, visitors and thosepassing through to visit the nearby Noss National Nature Reserve, as well as flexible spaces for meetings, events, exhibitions and business start‐ups.
The Bressay Community Development Association created a new entity, Bressay Development Ltd, to progress an asset transfer of the building. At first leasing, and in 2021 completing the purchase of the former school building. Bressay Development Ltd have created Speldiburn, a thriving community hub serving locals and visitors alike. Speldiburn provides vital social and community facilities, alongside volunteering and employment opportunities. The project helps support a wider programme of work for the benefit of the Bressay community.
The welcoming café, with accessibility provision for visitors with additional mobility needs, provides affordable and high‐quality catering and a social space for locals. The Under‐5s group, and other children’s activities, offset interaction opportunities lost with the school closure. The meeting spaces offer more accessible business and social options than those available in Lerwick, and regularly accommodate parties, funerals and other bookings for residents who would have otherwise had to source provision off‐island.
Who is running it?
Bressay Development Ltd is a non‐profit organisation committed to working with groups both on and off the island.
Why did the judging panel like it?
The judging panel got a strong sense that the project is delivered by the community for the community and that considerable thought is put into maximising use of the space and activities offered to have as broad an appeal as possible. The judges were particularly impressed by the hub’s ability to accommodate a considerable range of needs and by the leadership team’s determination for it to be attractive and useful to as many members of the community as possible. Recognising the size of the island population, it was striking the amount of energy and commitment that had clearly been dedicated to deliver the project and create a facility that is so useful to the whole community. Links have also been established with other island communities to coordinate activities to benefit residents and visitors.