Business with a Heart Serving the Community

The Orkney Business Festival on this week heard from 3 successful social enterprises in the islands.

The three were: Deerness Community Association, Papay Development Trust and The Orkney Creative Hub. Three very different business set ups but all 3 very much serving and responding to the needs of their communities. It was therefore a great pity that there was such a low turnout to their presentations as businesses and service providers in Orkney would have benefited from their positive examples.

There are over 70 social enterprises in Orkney. A figure which is about three times the Scottish average and they range from sole traders working from home to the likes of Community Associations covering parishes.

Deerness Community Association

Deerness Community Association has remained flexible in its approach to the needs of its parish. In 2017 a 9 page questionnaire was hand delivered to all households in Deerness to determine what people would like to see in their community hall. The association works closely with the local shop recognising that to have shopping facilities and a Post Office are extremely important in their parish. In responding to the restrictions to travel which may come about with the spread of COVID-19 they are even looking into a means of helping the local shop in its home deliveries of foodstuffs.

The community hall in Deerness is a vibrant place with lots of activities for all ages, hard standings for mobile home hook ups, an area for camping (with facilities) and a recharging point for EVs. They keep the community informed through social media and a monthly Deerness bulletin. Deerness Community Association is registered as a Charity.


Papay, an island with a population of about 75 was until a few years ago in a position where the number resident on the island was rapidly declining. It, however, opened itself up to change. In 1999 the Gateway House, acquired from the NHS, meant that young families could try out living on the island before deciding to re-locate permanently.

They now have 2 more properties with a local letting policy which gives priority to families with school-aged children and key workers.

The Kelp Store Heritage and Art Centre took 12 years to complete but it is now where the community can meet up. The community garden provides locally grown food which is sold in the island’s Co-op.

Papay also takes care of its recycling with a glass crusher. This material is then used for aggregate on the island.

Orkney Creative Hub

Orkney Creative Hub, which now has premises at 25 Bridge Street (where Sinclair Office Supplies used to be) consists of Orkney Arts & Crafts, the Orkney Craft Association, Solisquoy Printmakers and For Arts Sake. It is a Community Interest Company which aims to support creative wellbeing. It also now owns The Orkney Advertiser.

In addition to 25 Bridge Street it also has space at the Ortak premises in Hatston. The Orkney Creative Hub has been keen to work with others and provides workshops and taster sessions (over 2000 people attended these last year). Its shop in Kirkwall also sells made in Orkney products and features over 60 artists.

It provides studio space for artists – at the Ortak premises it has a Clarty Room, a Weaving Room and the studios which it can rent out. Bridge Street also has studio space upstairs. For a future development they are looking towards  creating a framing service at this location.

Orkney Creative Hub employs 7 members of staff and currently has 8 artists using the studio spaces. There is significant potential now to expand what they are doing as they have weaving looms and knitting machines. They are collaborating with Orkney College UHI on projects with weaving and machine knitting.

The three examples of successful social enterprises in Orkney have lessons for anyone running a business or service in the islands or indeed further afield. It was certainly a workshop well worth attending.

Orkney Business Festival

Reporter: Fiona Grahame


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