Media release:

A Shetland arts project is using major European investment to create the first multi-media and arts venue on the remote island community, which is aiming to become a centre of excellence for international creativity.

Situated on the Lerwick waterfront, the £12m purpose-built facility - known as Mareel - has secured around £2.8million in funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which will transform the community's current cultural offering with a world-class creative industries centre.

Led by Shetland Arts Development Agency (SADA), Mareel will incorporate a multi-purpose music, cinema, arts and education facility, which will act as a catalyst to stimulate the economic and cultural development of Shetland.

This is one of 65 projects across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland already benefiting from European Structural Funds since the 2007-13 Programmes started last year.

Mareel will attract, retain and nurture new creative talent in Shetland, building on the rich creative heritage, landscape and growing creative community that makes Shetland the very special place that it has become.

It will comprise a 330 seat performance auditorium, accommodating up to 700 people for a standing concert and a 159 seat digital cinema. The venue will also provide much needed rehearsal space for music, dance and drama, a state-of-the-art recording studio and digital media production suite, as well as training and education facilities and a café bar – all of which will be available for the whole Shetland community to use and benefit from.

Gwilym Gibbons, director of SADA, said: "Mareel will provide a creative hub and focus for our very special creative community and Shetland as a whole will benefit from a unique, state-of-the-art facility. Mareel will enhance lives and enable those visiting, living and returning to our islands to have a place to develop new skills and fulfil their creative potential and ambitions.

"Mareel is about more than the building and the facilities – it's about stimulating the Shetland economy by attracting people to live, work and study in our islands. It will enable us to strengthen our links with further education centres nationally and abroad, and will help us support cultural tourism to the area."

An Economic Impact Study (EIS) on Mareel, commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, highlighted that 52 full time jobs could be created as a result of the new facility. The EIS found that the project would have positive effects on population, retention of young people and raising the profile of Shetland and the Highlands and Islands internationally in the creative industries, building links with other countries.

Commenting on the support given to the Mareel project, Enterprise Minister Jim Mather said: "The Scottish Government is keen to ensure all our efforts are focused on creating a more successful country through increased sustainable economic growth.

"That's why European funding for projects such as Mareel can be beneficial. These awards help stimulate investment and job creation – something which is particularly important in the current economic climate.

"I wish all involved with Mareel every success as this exciting project develops."

Gary Johnson, director at Gareth Hoskins Architects, commented: "Shetland is a unique place with a world renowned reputation for its musical heritage. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to work with Shetland Arts on the design for a building that will contribute to the ongoing development and appreciation of such a key part of Shetland's cultural landscape."

Lerwick's developing cultural quarter is already home to the new award winning museum and archives, digital media businesses, architects and artists. Mareel will strengthen what is becoming an internationally competitive cluster of businesses built on innovation and creative talent.

The venue will be available for use by businesses, community groups and for the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Millennium Institute and will become a major tourist attraction for the area.

Mareel will provide a plethora of new opportunities for budding musicians, film-makers, broadcasters, animators and game designers by providing training workshops and activities for all ages, from pre-school to senior citizens.

Scheduled to open to the community in Autumn 2010, Shetland Arts Development Agency has already outlined its vision for Mareel for the next five to 10 years. It sees Mareel becoming a regular venue on the touring schedules of some of the biggest names in the music industry and performing artists and organisations from all over the world. Mareel will not only bring world class music to a Shetland stage but will take a Shetland stage to the world through live digital broadcast.

Additional funding has already been pledged from various organisations including, £2.12m from the Scottish Arts Council Lottery Fund, £5.19m from Shetland Islands Council, £965,000 from Highland & Islands Enterprise, £965,000 from Shetland Development Trust and £50,000 from The Gannochy Trust.

Notes to Editors:

Structural Funds are a source of European funding which aids sustainable economic growth and employment in Scotland. During 2007-13, Scotland will receive approximately €820m; at the current exchange rate, this is £680m.

Applications are appraised by Advisory Groups which make recommendations for funding to the Programme Monitoring Committees (PMCs), comprising senior representatives of partners from the Programme area. The PMCs in turn advise Scottish Ministers, who are responsible for the policy development and allocation and management of Structural Funds in Scotland.

For the 2007-13 programme period, there are four distinct Programmes – two in the Highlands and Islands (European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund) and two in the Lowlands & Uplands (also ESF and ERDF).