Well, inevitably there has been some questioning (see Shetland Times) of the value of sending 20 people to the other side of the world to spend an intensive 2 weeks focusing on social enterprise policy and practice. The jury will be out on this one for sometime yet I suspect. It can be hard to demonstrate immediate tangible change from newly gained knowledge.  But when I look at the programme for Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) and the subsequent Western Australia Study Programme, I can see so many really interesting visits and sessions directly related to current arts activity here in Shetland as well as other sectors such as eco tourism and aquaculture.

Sometimes the most valuable outcome of a concentrated period of study of this nature is simply, the space and time with like minded people to focus without distraction on one subject and in real depth.

We live in difficult financial times. Shetland Arts and other organisations who receive grant funding need to explore other ways to fund what we do.  We currently receive just under 50% of our funds from Shetland Charitable Trust – our target is for this to reduce to under a third by 2012. There is an added challenge for Shetland Arts from 2011 in that we need to ensure Mareel operates with no need of subsidy and if possible generates a surplus to support wider arts development activity. Mareel will operate as a social enterprise from day one – so I really welcome this opportunity, it is perfect timing to inform the review I and Trustees will be doing of our Business Plan and structures early next year.

There is no denying that it will be one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences too. Those who have seen me at meetings in recent months will have witnessed my growing excitement about my Australia trip. The competition for a place was naturally very high, all 20 delegates had to put forward a very strong case to secure a place. It will be very hard work too of course – but I sense I will get no sympathy in that regard, I’m not asking for any, by the way.

I will try and post a few updates on my trip when I get a chance, so watch this space. In early November I plan to do a short presentation on my trip. Please call Shetland Arts on 01595 743843 and leave your contact details if you are interested in attending - no interest no event. I will set a date, time and venue on my return depending on numbers.