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Community / Amenity trust eyeing up small events fund after falling short with Boat Week bid

The Vaila Mae at the 2019 Boat Week. Photo: Shetland Amenity Trust/Shetland Boat Week

SHETLAND Amenity Trust is interested in tapping into a possible new council fund designed to support smaller events after coming short in a bid for money for this year’s Boat Week.

The trust, along with other organisations like Sail Training Shetland, applied for £35,000 from VisitScotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 fund, but it only received £10,000.

Head of engagement Sandy Middleton said the funding would be added on top of the usual finances, “so we still need to be able to source the funding in sponsorship that we always have”.

The Shetland Boat Week organisers are hoping that the additional funding will go towards getting more folk on the water.

The Scottish Government’s tourism agency VisitScotland is providing funding for a number of marine-themed events to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.

Amenity trust chief executive Mat Roberts confirmed the organisation is now keen to target cash from a potential new Shetland Islands Council funding pot designated for supporting smaller events to “top up” the difference.

Councillors showed support for the idea in November as they discussed whether to back a bid to host the Tall Ships event in 2023.

They were asked to either press ahead with a Tall Ships bid or explore creating a fund for supporting smaller events in Shetland, but councillors were keen on both ideas.

A detailed report is due to be brought before councillors in the future on how the possible small events scheme could work.

Roberts admitted the trust is somewhat “unsighted” about the idea at the moment – but the charity has nevertheless submitted a tentative ask.

The amenity trust currently runs Boat Week, Shetland Nature Festival and Shetland Wool Week.

The latter is by far the biggest success story out of the three, bringing in an estimated £2 million into the local economy every year, although Roberts said it “just about washes its face” for the trust as an event.

“What we’re looking at at the moment with our three big key events is try to put them on a more sustainable footing,” Middleton explained.

“We get lots of great volunteers, but are we using them well enough, are we using their expertise well enough? Are we making sure we’re getting the right income streams and the right sponsorship and actually making sure they’re sustainable going on?”

Boat week and the nature event tend to run at a loss, but interest in the community and from visitors still remains strong.

“We’re not looking to make massive profits on these, but we do need to make sure they’re washing their face and keeping going, because they’re growing in popularity,” Middleton said.