Shetland author Ann Cleeves backs £650,000 international crowdfund appeal for Fair Isle Bird Observatory

An international crowdfunding appeal has been launched to raise at least £650,000 towards the cost of rebuilding the world-famous Fair Isle Bird Observatory, which was destroyed by fire last year. 

Ann Cleeves, author of the Shetland series of crime thrillers, which have been turned into the BBC TV drama starring Dougie Henshall, is spearheading the campaign, which launches today (Monday).

Cleeves, who is the newly-chosen patron of the observatory, first visited Fair Isle more than 40 years ago to work in the observatory kitchen. 

“Even then, I understood how important the observatory was to the island and the islanders,” she said. 

“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 funds will go towards the £7.4m cost of the new building, which will be the fifth observatory on the island. The first was opened in 1948 and the building which burned down in March 2019 was completed in 2010. 

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 team behind the campaign say 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 as well as the provision of significantly enhanced research facilities for world-class ornithological and additional marine biological work. 

The new observatory will draw more on – and help to develop –  the building and maintenance skills of the islanders and support the creation of a Fair Isle-wide Tourist Action Plan, expanding the scope of eco-tourism in the north of Scotland. 

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.” 

Visit Visit to donate. 


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