Shapinsay Development Trust

Hear how a remote island community in Orkney created a film for their project using an iPad and free software.

Important: Opinions expressed by Digital Pioneer interviewees are their own and don’t represent those of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

Lynne Collinson, Community Action Officer at Shapinsay Development Trust tells us more…

Shapinsay Development Trust

Tell us about Shapinsay Development Trust!

Lynne: Shapinsay Development Trust works to ensure the future of the resilient island community of Shapinsay (population 300), one of the Orkney Islands. Islanders are empowered and resourced by the work of the Trust in whose work they are intimately involved.

The regular activities of Shapinsay Development Trust include the provision of an Out of Hours boat service within the island, funding of events, activities and training and support for activities cultural, artistic and scientific.
Shapinsay Development Trust is also currently part of a European funded hydrogen project which is aimed at maximising income from the community owned turbine profits which fund much of its activities.

How have you been using digital?

Lynne: We started using digital technology just over a year ago to document and publicise our ‘Sew Shapinsay’ project which was the first public activity held in our new community facility – an old Boathouse, the conversion of which was supported by funding from Big Lottery and Highland and Islands Enterprise.

Shapinsay Development Trust

Tell us more about Sew Shapinsay and how you used digital.

Lynne: The ‘Sew Shapinsay’ project arose from our work with Lateral North and involved expert input from contemporary embroiderer Deidre Nelson who ran some workshops for us on embroidering an aerial view of Shapinsay which had been specially printed onto material. This was divided up into 16 squares and from then onwards local people including school children were invited to add their creative touches.

15 months later we are still working away on the project and look forward to the sessions which have also become a springboard for other ideas including hand bell ringing, which was first mentioned as folks stitched and which became a new activity on the island.

At the time the project started I had recently started working as a freelance Community Action Officer for the Trust and decided to use the Trust’s iPad to capture the creativity involved – this resulted in my first iMovie video which to my surprise attracted over 1000 viewings and counting on Facebook for just a £10 promotional fee! It was in theory a little too long at 6 minutes but it seems that many people watched it the whole way through and shared it with others and even now there are regular fresh viewings.

Shapinsay Development Trust

What motivated you?

Lynne: As a film maker I was inspired by having access to an iPad for the first time and thrilled with the simplicity and quality of its video making capacity after years working with expensive traditional digital cameras. Having had previous experience in video production it was great to apply these skills to the ‘Sew Shapinsay’ Project to help tell our story.

How did you go about it?

Lynne: I started by taking stills shots of the work in progress and sharing them as promotional prompts on Facebook to get people to come along and be part of it – then as people got used to me taking lots of snaps I progressed to taking short film clips and then asking people to record their comments – I did it naturally and gradually as the group got used to being relaxed and working together.

Actually making the video took a couple of days but collecting the material was done over a number of months, a little at time during the weekly ‘Sew Shapinsay’ sessions.

The iPad was a general purchase for Trust use. It already had iMovie as an available free app to allow editing of the video. We did decide to invest around £100 on a decent external mic (and wind shield given that it’s Orkney!) so that the quality of the audio would be of a good standard. There were no other costs involved as the content was all generated naturally from those taking part in the project.

Sew Shapinsay – HD Version from Shapinsay Development Trust on Vimeo.

Who was involved?

Lynne: Over 30 people have directly been involved from the community in working on the project and many of them feature in the ‘Sew Shapinsay’ film.

With my video production background and use of the iPad to capture Shapinsay Development Trust activities and community events, it seemed a natural progression to use this resource as fully as possible and for me to play a key coordinating role.

It is liberating and exciting to see how much can be done with today’s latest gadgets and technology at little cost – all folks need is some practical advice and help on techniques and content – and the confidence to step out and get started.

What’s been the impact?

Lynne: Promoting the project digitally has helped those taking part feel pleased about their involvement and there’s a satisfaction in having their work and island featured and admired both within and beyond Shapinsay.

The project was picked up by BBC Breakfast TV who featured some shots of our handiwork as a backdrop to a feature on Orkney – emphasising the validity and relevance of the work to a national audience. A local glossy magazine has also recently asked to do a feature on us.

Shapinsay Development Trust

Seeing the completed ‘Sew Shapinsay’ video gave people who took part the confidence that the material had been used in a professional way that added value to the project and has given them a confidence about taking part in other filming.

It has also been admired and the video shown to many visitors to Shapinsay Development Trust from other parts of Scotland and abroad – sometimes to groups of 20 or more people who have come to hear about our hydrogen energy project and who are fascinated to know what else we do.

Tourists who’ve come in to have a look have also got involved and sewn a few stitches and at Christmas we took the project to the craft shop at our Heritage Centre where some of the visitors sat down to have a go. One thing people have enjoyed doing is embroidering their home on the map or somewhere important to them such as their favourite beach.

Shapinsay Development Trust

Any challenges?

Lynne: There were no barriers really. It was important to allow people time to get used to the presence of the iPad which I was always picking up every time I saw a photo opportunity! It’s a fine balance between not irritating people and not missing the moment. Of course it’s important that people are happy with being photographed or filmed from the outset. It’s also important where possible to do filming out of relationship with those being featured – you need to build trust.

On reflection, I would make future videos shorter as that is good practice and the public’s attention span can be brief.

Any advice?

Lynne: Get some ‘how to’ advice if you need it then just step out in faith and do it. Don’t be intimidated or paralysed with fear about what people might think – include willing participants in the process as a work in progress – show them bits you’ve just shot there and then and have a fun time with it as a group and make it interactive. People will maybe suggest things to include or have some spontaneous comments to add.

Have a rough idea of what you hope to achieve but be flexible and go with the flow of how things develop. It is important if you are going to include interviews that you use an external microphone to the iPad for quality audio.

If you want to gain confidence, attend a course and add to your skills. I recently did an XPO North organised Mobile Journalism session in Kirkwall with Bill Shepherd, the Guardian’s production Editor which was full of useful tips and tricks.

If you don’t have the confidence to start with interviews make a video that promotes what you do and where you are in a general way with a commentary voice over or just some sub-titles and music.

What’s on your digital horizon?

Lynne: We’re planning a digital link with several other islands for a number of shared interest groups to meet and encourage one another and collaborate. This came out of a participatory budgeting exercise where islands could pitch for funding for inter-island projects. I was keen for Shapinsay to be involved in this so we were included in the pitch.

We have also recently won a Heritage Lottery Award for an Oral History Project called ‘Shapinsay Speaks’ and will be using clips of audio and possibly video on a new web portal.

I would like to see us progress into live broadcasting on outlets such as Periscope and Facebook Live for regular updates on topical issues and broadcasting live from events to give an ‘inside story’ and ‘sneak peek’ feel.


Thanks to Lynne from the Shapinsay Development Trust for sharing how they’re using digital in the voluntary sector. We hope that the digital tools mentioned and their approach have inspired your voluntary sector organisation. Don’t forget to share it with your networks to keep the inspiration flowing and tell us what you think @digiscot using #digiscotpioneers.

If you’d like to help spread some more digital inspiration across the voluntary sector then get in touch with us @digiscot and digital@scvo.org.uk. We’d love to hear from you and share it with our networks!

Page last modified on 2nd September 2019