Prior to the Westray Conference in 1998, the lack of youth facilities was well recognised. A typical Saturday night for teenagers in Westray meant meeting up at the public toilets. A Youth and Children subgroup was determined to meet the needs of Westray’s young folk, and consulted with and actively involved them in planning. The strong feeling was that a drop-in centre was needed, that had rules, but as little adult involvement as possible, with young people to be involved in the establishment of the centre. The use of a private building was donated as both an interim solution and a trial to see how it would work. This was an important first step and led community backing for the Westray Development Trust to build a centre, now known as the Hofn, for the primary use of young people. This was funded primarily by the Social Inclusion Fund, with other smaller funds used for furniture and equipment, transport and operating costs. The building opened for use in September 2000 with a disco and official opening marking the occasion. The building is owned by the Westray Development Trust.
The Hofn is well recognised as a community asset, with considerable value to our young folk and their families in assisting the transition to independence. Its primary users are those in the S1-S4 age group, with new users becoming involved each year. With the move of trust offices to the neighbouring unit and the upgrade of the building and facilities in 2013 it is expected that the Hofn will also continue to be used as a community meeting venue.
(picture) “Turning the Tide..” was the first community development plan for Westray, published in 2000. This paved the way for a number of successful projects that bolstered community confidence and created substantial interest in the island’s regeneration.
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.