Gabriella Giacchino of Curious Pilgrims in Shetland tells us how a 'Keep on Creating' microgrant from Creative Lives helped the group cover the costs of accounting and tax compliance, so they could carry on offering creative activities to people living in this remote part of Scotland.

"Curious Pilgrims is an award-winning, not-for-profit arts organisation that focuses on the inter-relationship between culture, the arts and the natural environment, and the positive impact that these have on mental, emotional and physical wellbeing on an individual basis and collectively as a community.

We do this by facilitating community activities designed to provide opportunities for public engagement and participation with the aim of improving and sustaining the quality of life of the community across Shetland.

We adopt a community-centric approach to reach out to people and communities, and provide opportunities for public engagement and participation with the aim of increasing community spirit and public interaction, improving mental and physical wellbeing and reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Founded in February 2020, Curious Pilgrims was awarded a Community Spirit Award (September 2020) by Voluntary Action Shetland in recognition of projects held to support the community during the COVID19 pandemic. In December 2021, Curious Pilgrims was selected as the Shetland representative of five organisations across Scottish islands to be part of research commissioned by the Scottish Government exploring effective examples of island community resilience during the pandemic. The findings from these case studies were published in June 2022 and will be used to develop recommendations for strengthening community resilience across Scotland and will help inform the delivery of the government’s National Islands Plan.

In December 2022, Curious Pilgrims was one of 36 organisations across the UK and Ireland to be shortlisted for the Creative Lives Awards 2022 that celebrate groups that offer creative activity for people of all ages and abilities.

As Scotland’s most northerly group of isles shaped by the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, Shetland is a geographically remote and rural. Cost of living is high, placing an additional strain on the wellbeing of our people and community. Yet, The National Islands Plan recognises the importance of Arts and Culture in its Strategic Objective 11, stating, “It is therefore essential that all islanders have an equal opportunity to access culture and the arts so that they can take part in or contribute to cultural life in Scotland in the way that they choose.”

Curious Pilgrims offers opportunities for public engagement and participation, encouraging people from all walks of life, backgrounds and abilities to interact and integrate. Our organisation strives to minimise, and whenever possible, remove barriers to participation in community activities, be they financial, physical, mental and/or emotional, whether perceived or otherwise.

Participation in most of our events is free, our organisation is run by volunteers and we are mostly dependent on grants and donations to keep our organisation going. The Creative Lives microgrant was very helpful in supporting part of the cost of professional services rendered by an accountancy firm for statutory financial statements, accounts and corporation tax compliance."