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Marine / Boat week’s ‘financial viability still open to question’

The Vaila Mae and Far Haaf in Lerwick Harbour. Photo: Shetland Amenity Trust/Shetland Boat Week

FEEDBACK from this year’s Shetland Boat Week has been positive – but questions remain over the event’s financial viability.

That was the message given to trustees of organiser Shetland Amenity Trust at their latest meeting on Friday.

The event returned to its full form in August, with highlights including the rare sailing of the Unst-based sixareen Far Haaf.

Head of development Davy Cooper wrote in a report that while there has been a positive response from this year’s boat week, question marks remain over the financial viability of the loss-making event.

“Shetland Boat Week seemed to be a success in terms of community engagement with a stronger family presence this year although its financial viability is still open to question,” he said.

“As a volunteer I had many opportunities to talk to members of the maritime community and there is great support and lots of ideas out there.”

Trustee Frank Robertson was also in praise of August’s event, saying: “Each day I was there I was meeting different people.

“I met people from all over the world. It was more vibrant than any other one.”

Speaking after the meeting, trust chief executive Mat Roberts said there was “always a concern about finance for everything”.

He said the loss made at this year’s Shetland Boat Week was “very small”.

“We didn’t set out to make a profit. We set out to run a good boat week,” Roberts said.

“Am I more concerned about boat week than any other project? No. We have to make investments in our festival and events programmes in order to succeed.

“I think historically boat week is the one there were lots of questions marks about. We ran a smaller boat week last year, it was quite a deliberate strategy, and what we now need to do is to give attendees confidence that there will a boat week.

“There will be a boat week – that’s the important thing. We are committed to making sure boat week is a feature of the calendar, and it’s an increasingly popular one.”

Roberts praised the support the event gets from local businesses and attendees, as well as from people donating money across amenity trust sites.

“We’ve had continued success in our donations box at the museum and the crofthouse,” he added.

“Donations at the museum are running at record levels. In July of this year we had the best ever donations we’ve ever seen anywhere. We knew people will support things.”