Living Lerwick is “on course” to deliver its flagship Winter Festival event, despite fears the organisation has become a rudderless ship in the wake of a number of resignations.
Acting chairman Steve Mathieson said that work to ensure the parade and Christmas lights switch-on goes ahead as scheduled on 2nd December was well under way.
His reassurances come after a troubled start to the new four-year term. A number of directors resigned in the weeks following August’s ballot, leaving just Mr Mathieson, The Camera Centre’s Ben Mullay and Harry’s Department Store’s Stewart Jamieson on the board.
To compound fears of a stalled start a new manager for the Business Improvement District (BID) scheme is yet to be appointed, nearly three months after a ballot saw Living Lerwick renewed by a margin of just nine votes.
This had led some business owners to question whether there was trouble behind the scenes, noting that updates on the progress of appointing a new manager and directors had not been forthcoming.
Laurence Smith, the proprietor of Smiths of Lerwick and founder of Living Lerwick’s predecessor the Lerwick Town Centre Association, was one owner suggesting that action was required to assure businesses that the new term would be more successful than the last.
Mr Smith, who has applied for the role of BID manager, said: “So many more people didn’t vote for it this time so they need to turn the corner on that and start showing people some impacts, and Christmas is the ideal time to do that.”
But Mr Mathieson sought to alleviate those concerns this week – making an assurance about the Living Lerwick Winter Festival and announcing three new directors.
Things have not happened as quickly as we wanted but that’s just the process. STEVE MATHIESON
Attempts to attract new blood have led to the appointments of Edna Irvine of Smith and Robertson, Dave Williams of Mirrie Dancers and Caroline Carroll of Harry’s Department Store, Mr Mathieson said.
“Apart from those we have three others who are going through the process”, he added.
On the delay in appointing a new BID manager Mr Mathieson said that he had felt three directors was not enough “to make a democratic decision” on an issue which will “affect the street for the next four years”.
One of the first tasks for the new directors will be to consider “a number of excellent applications”, with a decision on the £26,500 a year contract likely to be taken “in the next few weeks”.
“Things have not happened as quickly as we wanted but that’s just the process”, Mr Mathieson added.
Winter Festival preparations, meanwhile, have been progressing well thanks to “some enthusiastic volunteers” from businesses within the BID area who have stepped in to fill the void left by departing directors.
Some of the Christmas lights have already been erected and the Christmas tree is now in Shetland thanks to NorthLink and Northwards once again agreeing to transport it to the isles free of charge.
He added: “The Winter Festival is a signature event and there are thankfully no issues with regards the organisation of that.”
And in a nod to last year’s Christmas tree lights being branded the worst in the country by The Scottish Sun Mr Mathieson joked “hopefully the people will think that the lights have improved”.