The Westray Conference – 2nd to 4th October 1998

From 2nd to 4th October 1998, Westray played host to a major conference in which the future of the island was discussed.  The background was the falling population of the islands, decreasing numbers of jobs available to school leavers, and the falling roll of the school.  The conference looked at new ways of harnessing local talents, developing new businesses, and providing a place where people wanted to stay and work.  A large team was involved from the planning and organising right through to the actual event itself.  Nearly 100 delegates from outside Westray gave of their time, experience and expertise, contributing to workshops and as keynote speakers and there was a huge response from the local community.  The opening session on the Friday evening attracted over 350 people.  During the day, the school held a series of events including a full School Conference with 45 pupils attending.  Workshops throughout the weekend included: Residential Home/Westray Care Centre; Transport; Fisheries and Aquaculture; Tourism; Arts, Crafts and Knitwear; Agriculture; Education and Training; Information Technology; Industry and Business start-up; Youth and Children; Voluntary sector; Papa Westray Housing.

When the dust settled on this memorable weekend, there remained a feeling of optimism on the island, as the hard work began.  There was a strong sense of resolve within the community to work together and see many of the ideas generated at the conference come to fruition.   The Westray Development Trust was formed, and the first local development plan agreed and published.