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Environment / Ann Cleeves leads crowdfunding appeal to help rebuild Fair Isle Bird Observatory

The original plans for the new Fair Isle bird observatory.

AN INTERNATIONAL crowdfunding appeal to address “a worrying shortfall in funding” to rebuild the world-famous Fair Isle Bird Observatory has been launch today (Monday).

Trustees running the bird observatory are hoping that people from around will help raise at least £650,000 towards the £7.4 million project cost.

The bird observatory burned to the ground in March 2019 when a fire that started in the roof could not be contained and destroyed the nine-year-old building.

Ann Cleeves
Author Ann Cleeves

At the heart of the campaign as newly-chosen Patron of the Observatory is the author Ann Cleeves, whose crime novels set in the islands have been turned into the BBC TV drama series Shetlandstarring Dougie Henshall, Alison O’Donnell and Steven Robertson.

Cleeves, who first visited Fair Isle more than 40 years ago to work in the observatory kitchen, said: “Even then, I understood how important the observatory was to the island and the islanders.

“Fair Isle is a thriving community that keeps alive its traditions while being open-minded and open-hearted to visiting strangers.

“The loss of the building to fire was a tragedy, given its central role in supporting employment and providing a place where islanders and visitors can meet to share stories and expertise.

“We now hope to replace it with a building that is even more relevant to the island’s future and hope that you can help us in any way you can.”

The new building – referred to as Obs 5 – is being designed by Glasgow-based ICA architects and it received planning permission from Shetland Islands Council in May this year.

President of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust Roy Dennis said: “I was appalled when I saw the flames destroying our famous bird observatory in March 2019, but I knew then, immediately, that we would build a new one in exactly the same place – like a ‘phoenix rising from the ashes’.

“Our trustees have worked hard, and even with the difficulties of the pandemic, new designs and plans are ready, but we have a very worrying shortfall in funding.

“We now need the sympathies of last year turned into generous donations, so that Fair Isle Bird Observatory can be rebuilt. Please help.”

The observatory is vitally important to the economic and social wellbeing of Fair Isle, so contributions will be an investment in the future viability of the community, the campaign says.

The building will have improved accommodation – more guest rooms and better fittings – for students, volunteers and young people to progress both educationally and career-wise.

The first Fair Isle Bird Observatory was opened in 1948 and the building which burned down in March 2019 was completed in 2010.

The crowdfunding appeal can be found here.