Happy campers

The camps provide a supply of slave-labour for six weeks of the summer. For the price of a bowl of s

On Wednesday, after an unscheduled overnight stay in Shetland due to the weather, the first of this year’s work camps arrived in Fair Isle.

Most years there are three work camps that come to the island during the summer. Two are “Thistle Camps”, organised by the National Trust for Scotland, and the third is run by the International Voluntary Service (IVS). The groups come (as the name implies) to work – helping out on the crofts, clipping sheep, building fences, gardening, painting, and any other jobs that need done at the time. Sometimes they will be involved in large-scale projects that require the extra hands, and sometimes they will be working on their own with the crofter. The work can be hard, physical labour; it can also be dull, repetitive and menial.

Why, you might well ask, would anyone want to come on a holiday like that? And what’s more, why would they pay for the privilege?

Most of the people who come to the camps do not live in the countryside. Many of them come from big cities; they work in offices, banks, shops. They have little or no experience of life in a remote place, and so they come to get a taste of a place that is very much different from their own home. The trips are certainly not laidback or relaxing (I suspect many people feel like they need another holiday by the time they return home) but they must be truly enlightening to some of the people who come, and who suddenly discover that there is a completely different way of life that they had never considered before.

Of course, there are others who do know what to expect, and who come for that very reason. There are a few hardy work campers who return year after year because they love the work, or the island, or possibly even the people. I have noticed from comments left on some of my previous blogs that quite a few people reading these articles regularly are previous work camp visitors, who clearly have retained an interest in the island, and a desire to keep up to date with life here. Not every place can have that kind of effect on people.

Part of this effect, I guess, must be the result of working so closely with the people here, and being able to feel a part of the community, if only for a short time. Each day the workers go to one or other of the crofts to spend the day with islanders – working, eating and speaking with them. While they are here there is usually a dance and a barbeque organised, so the groups also have the opportunity to socialise with Fair Islanders. All of these things must add to the uniqueness of the experience.

The benefit to the island of the work camps is, in a way, very similar. For a place that is as geographically isolated as Fair Isle, the groups are a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, and, with the IVS groups in particular, to find out about other places. There have even been some relationships (and marriages) between work campers and islanders over the years.

But the main benefit, of course, is that the camps provide a supply of slave-labour for six weeks of the summer. For the price of a bowl of soup you can have someone weed your garden, clip your sheep or even paint your house. Which is exactly what I did last year, when four work campers and I managed to whitewash the outside of my house in just a day and half – a job that would have taken me a week on my own. And for that help I will always be grateful. Thanks guys!

Malachy Tallack is 26 and lives in Fair Isle. He is a singer-songwriter, journalist, and editor of the magazine Shetland Life.
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Have voters turned against globalisation? It depends how you describe it

Brits are more positive about diversity than Sweden. 

New research shows that citizens across Europe are pessimistic about the future, distrustful of government and other political institutions, ambivalent at best about multiculturalism, and increasingly sceptical about the role of the European Union.

We wanted to understand the extent to which Europe’s citizens favour a "closed" rather than an "open" outlook and perspective on politics, economics and society. Making globalisation work for ordinary people in the developed world is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. Globalisation’s popularity and political viability is both a pre-condition and a consequence of making it work, but mainstream politicians seem to be failing to persuade us to embrace it, to the detriment of democratic institutions and norms, as well as their own careers.

The decision of the British people to leave the European Union has been perceived as yet another step back from globalisation and a rejection of an "open" outlook that favours international co-operation in favour of a more closed, inward-looking national debate.

There’s certainly a strong element of truth in this explanation. The referendum campaign was deeply divisive, with the Leave campaign playing heavily on concerns over immigration, refugees and EU enlargement. As a consequence, the "liberal" Leavers – those who wanted to leave but favoured a continuing a close economic relationship with the EU along with free movement of labour – appear to have been side-lined within the Conservative party.

Our results are by no means uplifting, but it’s not all doom and gloom. While there’s no doubt that opposition to certain features and consequences of globalisation played an important role in driving the Leave vote, Brits as a whole are just as open, outward-looking and liberal-minded, if not more so, than many of our European neighbours.

First, we asked respondents in all six countries the following:

“Over recent decades the world has become more interconnected. There is greater free trade between countries and easier communication across the globe. Money, people, cultures, jobs and industries all move more easily between countries

“Generally speaking, do you think this has had a positive or negative effect?”

Respondents were asked to consider the effects at four levels: Europe as a whole, their country, their local area, and their own life.

Overall, British voters are overwhelmingly positive about globalisation when described in this way - 58 per cent think it has benefited Europe and 59 per cent think it has benefited Britain. More than half (52 per cent) think it has benefited their local area, and 55 per cent think it has benefited their own life.

One might respond that this question skates over questions of immigration and multiculturalism somewhat, which are the most controversial features of globalisation in the UK. Therefore, we asked whether respondents thought that society becoming more ethnically and religiously diverse had changed it for the better or for the worse.

Overall, 41 per cent said that ethnic and religious diversity had changed British society for the better, while 32 per cent said it had changed for the worse. That’s a net response of +9, compared to -25 in France, -13 in Germany, and -17 in Poland. Brits are even more positive about ethnic and religious diversity than Sweden (+7) – only Spanish respondents were more positive (+27).

There’s a long way to go before ordinary people across the developed world embrace globalisation and international cooperation. Despite the apparent setback of Brexit, the UK is well-placed politically to take full advantage of the opportunities our increasingly inter-connected world will present us with. It would be a mistake to assume, in the wake of the referendum, that the British public want to turn inwards, to close themselves off from the rest of the world. We’re an open, tolerant and outward-looking society, and we should make the most of it.

Charlie Cadywould is a Researcher in the Citizenship Programme at the cross-party think tank Demos. His writing has been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as the national media.