Small islands are vulnerable to depopulation, distant governance, demands of global markets, and retrenchment of investment due to wider economic fluctuation. On 17-22 April 2012, this island studies conference will explore public-, private-, and community-led strategies for overcoming such challenges and will consider the respective merits of development initiatives focusing on individual villages, whole islands, or entire archipelagos.
Using Saxa Vord Resort in Unst as our base, we will investigate social and economic development initiatives in the North Isles of Shetland. Our excursions in Unst will take us to local retailers and producers, heritage museums, community halls, a school, a new pier – and to abandoned settlements and ruined churches that are eloquent of past depopulation and rural decline. We will also visit the island of Fetlar, where the Fetlar Development Trust is working to create jobs and reverse long-term decline that saw the island’s population drop to around 40 residents in early 2009. The final days of the conference will feature presentations and discussion forums that will help interested Shetlanders learn about development efforts in other island communities.
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