When it comes to “doing something different” at university, as the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) prospectus advertises, you’d be hard-pressed to find somewhere more unique to study traditional music than at the Lews Castle College campus on the Isle of Benbecula.
On the Isle of Berneray, neither locals nor visitors will be able to miss the brand new, bright blue Berneray Shop and Bistro, located just a few minutes from the ferry terminal and the causeway linking the island to North Uist.
It’s not often I encounter a fellow Leodhasach (native of Lewis) in a New York City bar, let alone six of them at once – but that’s exactly the situation I found myself in March 2018 at Rockwood Music Hall, located in Manhattan’s trendy Lower East Side.
Who Cares? Scotland is a national third sector advocacy and membership organisation that works with care- experienced and other young people in a range of different ways. In the last year in the Western Isles, the work of Who Cares? Scotland has been wide-ranging, from independent advocacy work to the organisation of fun events for young people throughout the islands.
New York City’s annual Tartan Week celebrates the influence of Scots in America, with events ranging from theatre shows to poetry readings, culminating in a parade along Sixth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan. And this year, for the first time ever, a pipe band from the Outer Hebrides took to the stage – and the streets – as part of the celebrations.
National Care Day, hosted on 16th February by Who Cares? Scotland, is an annual celebration of the success of children and young people with care experience. In the Western Isles this year, though, the celebrations were held later than usual, on the 22nd – and they were a little bit different, too.
Research shows that by the time a child reaches school, there is a significant gap in vocabulary between the most and least deprived children – and it’s a gap in attainment that widens as the school years pass.
Earlier this year, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar appointed a new Head of Service for Children’s Services and Chief Social Work Officer. “It’s a challenging, wide ranging and hugely exciting role,” says David Gibson, who relocated to Lewis from Edinburgh to take up the position.
The strength of community is one aspect of life in the Western Isles that is often praised and remarked upon. But as the Extended Learning Manager at Community Learning and Development, Fiona MacInnes-Begg, notes, “even in the Western Isles, every community is different. They need different things, they’ve got different strengths and different areas in need of improvement.”
Following the national launch of Scotland’s themed “Year of Young People 2018” in Edinburgh at New Year, the Outer Hebrides will see its own Year of Young People kick off later this month, with a special cèilidh initiated and organised by the islands’ young people themselves.
Not every child gets a positive start in life. Some need to be looked after, while others are affected by homelessness, mental health issues, substance misuse, and long-term health problems, and it’s young people like these that Western Isles Foyer, the independently-funded local charity, works to support.
Last month saw a series of events held in secondary schools throughout the Western Isles to introduce the options available to pupils in 4th-6th year.