Across the country, there are individuals, community groups and organisations working to ensure such activities exist: from playparks and playgroups through to kids-go-free festivals, events and attractions.

Below are a just a few examples of the great projects either going on or underway:

Photo courtesy of Kishorn Community Trust

Background

When the playpark in Kishorn became derelict and was condemned by the council, members of the community decided to try to reinstate it to provide better amenities for local children.

Together, they formed the Kishorn Community Trust and set about securing the land from owner Helen Murchison, who thought a new playpark was a great idea and donated the ground on a 20-year lease.

‘The village was crying out for a replacement,’ said Kurt Larson, an American born engineer who, along with retired fund manager and fellow Kishorn resident Ian Smith, organised the Kishorn Community Trust’s fund-raising drive.

They wrote letters to various organisations and businesses, including Scottish Sea Farms, to raise money for the playpark equipment and installation, which they estimated would cost a total of around £60,000.

A helping hand

‘Ian took on the national charitable companies and I focused on the more local ones,’ said Kurt. ‘Thanks to companies like Scottish Sea Farms, we reached our target within about a year.

‘It was a Scottish company, Caledonia Play, that won the tender for the equipment, and all the groundwork and installation was completed by local contractor John Parker.

‘Because we were in lockdown, we couldn’t get anyone from the supplier up to the site. But they managed to get the equipment manufactured and John was able to install it. We were lucky to have all the talents in town!’

Kurt also paid tribute to all the local residents, as well as businesses, who gave money and time to the project, and to Scottish Sea Farms’ Kishorn farm manager, Siobhan Murray who, he said, was ‘instrumental and a real asset to the community’.

The difference made

The grand opening of the new playpark was in August 2021, with Helen cutting the ribbon, followed by a party for Kishorn families and donors.

Since then, local children have been making the most of the playpark’s facilities, which include a zip wire, a seesaw, springer, roundabout, climbing frame, slide, and swings.

‘It is fantastic for Kishorn and the surrounding area to have this great resource open once again,’ said Kurt.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Lawson Photography

Background

Having recently celebrated its 10th year, the Oban Winter Festival has become a seasonal highlight on the west coast for both locals and visitors. Packed with entertainment for all generations, the 10-day festival was established to stimulate the local economy during a traditionally quiet period.

‘It’s usually a very full programme and we get a lot of support from the community, with shops staying open late and charities putting on their own events,’ said the festival committee.

Covid saw the festivities cancelled in 2020, but the festival was resurrected for 2021, albeit in a reduced format.

A helping hand

‘This is a big event for the locals and they all get very involved,’ said the committee. ‘Covid may have slightly curtailed the 2021 festival but people were just happy that it could happen at all.’

A team of just four volunteers works hard behind the scenes to make the festival a success, with help in kind from businesses as well as donations.

Scottish Sea Farms has backed the festival to the tune of £21,000 since it began in 2012, including a grant of £2k for 2021.

In the past, the company has funded the Winter Woods, a major draw for children, but this attraction had to be cancelled for the 2021 festival due to social distancing rules affecting minibus transportation.

Instead, the committee asked for support for its regular street performers, who included perennial favourites Mr Bubbles the clown, the Funky Chicken and the Absurdist Pipe Band – ‘very good musicians who deliberately play out of tune’ – who are used throughout the festival to entertain the crowds.

The difference made

In 2019, the Oban Winter Festival attracted 26,935 people from the surrounding area, from across Scotland and as far afield as the US and China. It provided a £1.8 million boost for the local economy and raised almost £38,000 for charity.

Tour operators have added the festival dates to their tours and local hotels offer discounted rates throughout the festival to increase footfall and spending in the town.

‘Normally, the organisation begins in February but for our 2021 event we didn’t get started until September, because of the uncertainties around Covid,’ said the committee.

‘But we were delighted to have the festival back; it is so important for bringing people together.’

If you would like to learn more about the Oban Winter Festival click here.

Photo: picnic area developed ahead of installation of new playpark equipment

Background

Outdoor play is seen as increasingly important for children after 18 months of lockdowns and Covid restrictions. In Mallaig, a small group of parents have been working in conjunction with the Road to the Isles Facilities Group to upgrade and improve the outdated and dilapidated playpark in the area located between Loch Nevis Terrace and Loch Nevis Crescent.

They plan to enhance the play opportunities for children up to the age of 12 years old, with funds raised in the community and with a £30,000 contribution from Highlands Council.

A helping hand

Catherine Young, one of the Mallaig parents spearheading the project, said they have now reached their target of around £70,000.

‘We wrote letters to local businesses, all of whom were very generous, so we’ve had a lot of input from the community,’ she said.

‘We had a fun day at the playpark in the summer, with a bouncy castle, face painting, a barbecue, and raffle with the prizes donated, and we managed to raise £3,500 just on that day.

‘Scottish Sea Farms’ donation of £7,000 will be used to create a toddlers’ unit, which will be like a climbing frame with a little slide.’

The playpark, once finished, will include a row of swings for all ages, a springer, a trampoline, a gravity bowl, and a trim trail with ropes for balance.

The campaign to upgrade the playpark, going back more than two years, had been worth the hard work because so many children will benefit, said Catherine.

‘Our vision for the project is to ‘lessen screen time and increase green time’.  We visited the local primary school and the children contributed drawings, which we have incorporated into the design.

‘We have also recently completed creating a picnic area within the playpark, which looks fantastic.’

Difference made

Discussions are now centred on buying the equipment, estimated to cost around £40,000, and installation is scheduled for March 2022.

‘Because it’s in a remote area, getting people to come in to Mallaig to install the kit was going to be very expensive,’ said Catherine. ‘But we got in touch with someone local who was more than happy to take on the project.’

Once the work is completed, Catherine said there is one finishing touch that she and her fellow volunteers would like to add.

‘We really want recognise all the businesses that have helped towards this by putting up plaques on the bits of the park they helped with.’

Photo courtesy of Gordon Siegel Photography

Background

Seafood is a key source of employment and income for Shetland, as is the food and drink sector as a whole, and the Taste of Shetland Festival exists to help showcase the wealth of local produce on offer.

A much-loved annual event on the islands’ calendar, it brings together cookery demonstrations, competitions, market stalls, family entertainment and a healthy measure of live music from local artists to promote the very best of Shetland to foodies near and far.

A helping hand

Come 2019 and the Taste of Shetland team had plans to stage their most ambitious event yet: a two-day festival with a cookery competition at its heart and regional heats in the preceding weeks.

Keen to secure additional funding to make the vision a reality, the team reached out to Scottish Sea Farms who signed up to a £5k sponsorship deal.

One successful festival later and no-one could have predicted what lay around the corner: a global pandemic, no less. Not ones to be deterred, the Taste of Shetland team took the festival online for the first time, aided by a second year of sponsorship from Scottish Sea Farms.

Such was the success of the online element, that the 2021 event went on to offer the best of both worlds: the return of the hugely popular market stalls, with the option for those further afield or unable to attend in person to be a part of things online.

A win-win format for local producers and foodies alike.

The difference made

Shetland Food and Drink Manager Claire White said: “This year’s pioneering dual format festival is a response to member requests that we run in person and broadcast events simultaneously. It gives local businesses the best of both worlds: face-to-face trading with customers and international profile to help cultivate the global appetite for Shetland’s exceptional quality produce long term.

‘We couldn’t be prouder of our members who are contributing generously to market stalls, the festival broadcast and our fabulous raffle.

‘We are also incredibly grateful to Scottish Sea Farms who are sponsoring our festival for the third year running.”

If you would like to learn more about the work of Taste of Shetland, click here.