The controversial Mareel music and cinema venue is a development of national importance destined to change the lives of young Shetlanders, some of the top business brains in the Highlands and Islands said today.
The £12 million centre received a boost to its battered image from members of a group from the government agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise during a two-day tour of community projects they are involved in funding in Shetland.
Mareel has benefited from a special grant of £960,000 from HIE, which is substantially more than the £600,000 that the HIE’s team in Shetland has been allocated to dish out this year to assist smaller projects.
While acknowledging the construction problems which have led to a year-long delay and no firm opening date, HIE chairman Willy Roe said today he was confident the obstacles would be overcome and the venue would kick-start the growth and development of an industry in music-making, film production and the use of digital technologies, leading to the export nationally and internationally of those skills and their creations.
Mr Roe said: “It’s an immensely ambitious project. It’s fantastic to see the Shetland Islands community taking on board something as future-oriented as this.”
He believed it would give Shetland “a real cutting edge” in being an exporter of creativity as well as supplying services and entertainment for local people through its cinema and concerts.
Its impact will be such that it will “change the lives of very many young people in Shetland” who are unable to access the range of music, film and sound and vision experiences available to their peers in big towns and cities down south.
Mr Roe has chaired HIE for seven years and is a specialist in economic development, lifelong learning and multimedia technology. He lives in Wester Ross near the Plockton School of Traditional Music, a national centre of excellence which was recently saved from closure after a national outcry.
HIE has also supported the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig arts and broadcasting centre for Gaelic in Skye and the An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway, which he said had changed mindsets and provided opportunities for people of all ages.
Mr Roe said creative industries were one of the fastest-growing industries across the world and to invest in it was one of the very best ways of helping economic development, creating jobs and developing creative talent.
HIE chief executive Alex Paterson said Mareel would be an asset of national or even international importance, bringing lots of opportunities and benefits to Shetland which might not otherwise have happened.