Each month our friends at Leeds Building Society will explore a parkrun event and the positive impact this has had on the local community. This month, we’re excited to share their first Community Story which highlights the rural community of Bressay, nestled in Shetland.
Bressay parkrun takes place on one of the 15 small inhabited islands that are part of the 100+ island archipelago of Shetland. Bressay’s population is about 350 so it tends to swell by 10-20% on parkrun day!
The Bressay parkrun experience begins with a seven minute ferry crossing from the main town of Lerwick and the friendly atmosphere starts here. Many visitors comment on how much they enjoy getting to know people on the ferry, highlighting the real sense of community. The short sailing has other benefits too, as the Volunteer Coordinator has a captive audience for recruiting to the volunteer roster and briefing new volunteers on their duties.
The small community has really got behind Bressay parkrun including recruiting volunteers of their own to staff the Community-run ‘Speldiburn’ Cafe specially for the parkrun as it would not ordinarily have been open on a Saturday during previous Winter months. They have even installed World and UK maps/pinboards for parkrun tourists to add their location pin and enjoy hearing our visitors’ stories.
The local Community Council has recognised that parkrun is a real asset to Bressay, and Shetland as a whole, by providing funding and resources to help get us off the ground. The parkrun Core Group and Bressay residents have also worked together to help maintain and spruce up parts of the route such as the red telephone boxes and playground at the finish, creating real community cohesion between parkrun and the residents of Bressay.
A rather unusual way in which the Bressay community has embraced parkrun is by featuring it in ‘the bill’ of the Bressay ‘Up Helly Aa’ fire festival. The significance of this may be lost on most people out of Shetland, but the fire festival, which recognises Shetland’s Viking heritage, is firmly rooted in the community and being humorously mocked on the billboard is a right of passage in Bressay.
As an island with no prior knowledge of ‘parkrun’, the community initially looked on in bemused surprise at the growing number of new visitors arriving off the 9am ferry on an ordinarily quiet Saturday. However, since that snowy inaugural run on the 20 January 2018, Bressay parkrun has consistently welcomed parkrun tourists from across the UK (and the globe) every single week and there’s now a great atmosphere in the island on a Saturday morning. Even those who don’t fancy doing the route or volunteering are still tempted by the post-parkrun buzz and delicious scoff in the Speldiburn Cafe afterwards, all contributing to the feel of community togetherness when coming here.
Leeds Building Society are profiling communities up and down the UK to be their next Community Story. They’re also providing funding of up to £25,000 to help improve local parkrun communities. Find out more about the Community Reward Scheme here.
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