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Global appeal to raise money for new observatory on Fair Isle

Visualisation of new Fair Isle Bird Observatory
Visualisation of new Fair Isle Bird Observatory

People around the world are being asked to contribute to the cost of rebuilding the world-famous Fair Isle Bird Observatory, which was destroyed by fire last year.

An international crowdfunding appeal to raise at least £650,000 towards construction work on the remote Shetland island launches today.

Ann Cleeves

At the heart of the campaign as newly-chosen patron of the observatory is author Ann Cleeves, whose crime novels set on the islands have been turned into the BBC TV drama series Shetland – starring Dougie Henshall, Alison O’Donnell and Steven Robertson.

Mrs Cleeves, who first visited Fair Isle more than 40 years ago to work in the observatory kitchen, said: “Even then, I understood how important the observatory was to the island and the islanders.

“Fair Isle is a thriving community that keeps alive its traditions, while being open-minded and open-hearted to visiting strangers.

“The loss of the building to fire was a tragedy, given its central role in supporting employment and providing a place where islanders and visitors can meet to share stories and expertise.

“We now hope to replace it with a building that is even more relevant to the island’s future.”

World-famous bird observatory to be rebuilt following devastating fire

Funds raised will go towards the £7.4 million cost of the new building, which will be the fifth observatory on the island.

The first opened in 1948 and the building which burned down in March 2019 was completed in 2010.

The new building will have more guest rooms and better fittings for the students and volunteers who will use it.

According to the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust (FIBOT), financial contributions will be “an investment in the future viability of the community as well as the provision of significantly enhanced research facilities for world-class ornithological and additional marine biological work”.

The new observatory is expected to “draw more deeply on and help to develop the building and maintenance skills of the islanders, and support the creation of a Fair Isle-wide tourist action plan, expanding the scope of eco-tourism in the north of Scotland”.

FIBOT president Roy Dennis said: “I was appalled when I saw the flames destroying our famous bird observatory in March 2019, but I knew then, immediately, that we would build a new one in exactly the same place – like a phoenix rising from the ashes.”

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