Our Islands’ Life Studied For Research Project

An expert in Island Studies is visiting Scilly as part of a university-funded research project.

Adam Grydehoj, whose trip is funded by Southern Cross University in Australia, is studying Scilly in the hope of learning more about how our islands work.

He’s been talking to local people and Council officials on St Mary’s and St Agnes and will be visiting Tresco and Bryher next week.

Adam says that while each island community is unique, there are lots of common issues, like isolation and travel problems. And he says a lot can be learnt when comparing these similarities.

He says he’s asking questions like “Do people think of themselves primarily as Scillonians or primarily as members of their individual island communities?” and “Do people feel links with other island communities?”

He adds that many people talk about the disadvantages of island life, but there are also significant advantages over large towns or cities.

In a small community, people can often find it easier to influence the direction they want their island to go in. It can be easier to get things moving at a local level than in a big city, he says.

It’s also easier to change people’s ideas on the outside about a place like Scilly and understanding this could give island communities an advantage when competing with the mainland.

Adam says there can even be differences in the way people behave, depending on whether they were born on an island or moved here.

He says growing up and living on an island, people learn strategies for avoiding the types of conflicts that occur on the mainland. “It’s harder to keep a running feud going than on the mainland,” he says.

He said he hasn’t noticed any major problems in Scilly, over and above those faced by any other island community, although he mentioned that travel to and between the islands has been particularly tricky and ‘un-coordinated.’

Adam says there are quite a few researchers working in Island Studies, but there’s very little information in the journals about the Isles of Scilly. That’s why he was keen to study our islands.

And while he’s spent a lot of time in the Scottish islands, he says Scilly is unique in England, with our nearest comparisons being the Isle of Wight and Sheppey.

His background in Folklore Studies, which he completed at the University of Aberdeen, gives him a different view of island life. He’s particularly interested in how culture affects the way islanders view themselves and says this can influence everything from local politics to economic development.

Adam is hoping to use his research to write an academic paper on the Scillies and possibly host the International Small Islands Culture conference here in 2015.

He’s currently planning similar events in Unst in Scotland and in Finland and the conference could attract delegates from academia, government and business.