The Staney Hill community enjoyed its voting day in the Shetland Hotel on Saturday, deciding which groups should share £40,000 of public funds to improve life in north Lerwick.
The most popular of the 14 proposals generated by the community turned out to be a £6,500 investment to equip the Staney Hill Hall with a range of education and entertainment equipment, including computers, a projector and a screen so that lots more events can be put on in the building, turning it into more of a social hub.
John MacLellan of the North Staney Hill Community Association, who led the project, was delighted to be first out of the hat. He said the hall was a facility for everybody in the community to use.
He was one of many proud Staney Hill residents of all ages and backgrounds who were in the audience of about 80 at the Shetland Hotel. He said the day had gone really well and the chosen projects would all be very good for the Staney Hill.
While it is fair to say that it has an image problem over the years among those who don’t know the area, due largely to temporary housing, Mr MacLellan said it was simply what you would expect when people who were down on their luck were shoved into one place.
Most parts, like Voder View where he has stayed for 16 years, were quiet, pleasant and an excellent place to stay, he said.
Other big winners in the Wir Community, Wir Choice vote included four of the community association’s five other projects: twice-monthly activities for the 50-plus age group, including exercise classes and crafts; a community shrub and flower-planting scheme; a programme of music, food and dance for all ages in the hall; and buying equipment for the junior youth club.
Alas, the £40,000 was not enough to go round all. The council’s housing outreach service got only part of the £5,200 it wanted to run the so-called Fab Pad workshops, teaching young tenants how to decorate their new homes and take a pride in them. The Aestaewast Drum and Dance group missed out on the £1,210 it wanted to put on eight weeks of classes for all.
However, all is not lost because Maggie Dunne, June Porter and their team from the council are to make efforts to find extra money.
Ms Dunne was delighted with the success of the day and the enthusiasm for the concept of participatory budgeting, which helps bring communities together and gives them the power to decide for themselves how grants should be spent. The £40,000 grant was contributed by the EU, the council and the Scottish government.
Presenting the cheques, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said such events were very useful for building community spirit.
Lerwick North councillor Allan Wishart was delighted to see the level of co-operation taking place within the community. He said: “I think today has been an absolutely fantastic day.”
The participatory budgeting concept may be tried out in other Shetland communities in the future to help people become involved in their areas and with other residents.
The event was compèred by country music radio presenter and line-dance instructor Jim Pearson, who lives in the area. During the lunch more local talent, singer Sheila Henderson and her son Joe, made their stage debut as a double act, entertaining with a set of acoustic songs including material written and sung by Joe.