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Get outside with Shetland for Bairns

How a community in Shetland worked together to create a book about their local area

Language: English, Scots

Last updated: 15 July 2021

Shetland for Bairns is a great non-fiction book, written by bairns for bairns. A fantastic community project started by now 11 year old David Cockayne, this book is filled with fun activities to inspire you to get outside and enjoy your local area this summer! David and his mum, Jane Cockayne, talk about creating the book and share tips to inspire your own adventure and community book.

How it started

Living in Shetland means that there are many places to explore, have fun and enjoy picnics! Shetland For Bairns started at the kitchen table when David began making a scrapbook of our family adventures around Shetland. Over time David wondered if we could make a ‘real book’ which would show how amazing Shetland is for children and families. We contacted our local publisher who asked us to make a mock up page.

Shetland For Bairns started at the kitchen table when David began making a scrapbook of our family adventures around Shetland.

David chose to research Shetland’s woods as he loves exploring them and it also gave him a great reason to go back to the fantastic rope swing at Kergord ‘forest’! We enlisted the help of a friend who is a graphic designer and he gave us some top tips on page layouts. We were surprised and excited when our publisher gave David a contract to write a book about Shetland when he was just 8 years old!

A whole community effort

After several months of research, it became apparent that if the book was truly going to be called Shetland For Bairns then we needed to talk to children from all over Shetland to hear their ideas. The best part of the book is the fact that children have contributed to it in all sorts of ways, some have researched entire topics, while others have contributed a drawing or photo of themselves doing an activity that they enjoy.

We enlisted the help of David’s primary school class who visited the Scalloway Castle to research the Stewart Earls. We also contacted community groups and held an information gathering drop in session at a local café. People of all ages helped to make the book and we interviewed many grown-ups with specialised knowledge of Shetland. The result is a book bursting with contributions from local children, artists, musicians, tour guides, historians and experts in all things Shetland.

Highlights and challenges

We think that listening to other children’s experiences of living in Shetland was the most important part of making Shetland For Bairns. The book became richer as it was filled with contributions from children of all ages and abilities who live in different parts of the island. Planning and communication were also very important as there were so many different groups involved in making the book. We are very aware that the book only scratches the surface of Shetland and the greatest challenge was not deciding what to include in the book but what to leave out!

The book became richer as it was filled with contributions from children of all ages and abilities who live in different parts of the island.

David’s favourite part of making the book was making lots of new friends including meeting our publisher, Charlotte Black and being interviewed by Mary Blance for BBC Radio Shetland’s book programme.

Top tips

If anyone feels like undertaking a similar project, then David’s advice is 'just go for it!' If you have an idea then share it with those who can support you in realising this dream such as local publishers, schools and community groups. Another top tip is to keep the project fun as it is fundamentally about a community coming together to celebrate and showcase their local area.

Shetland for Bairns is published by Shetland Times Ltd(this will open in a new window), a small independent publisher based in Lerwick, Shetland. Ask your local bookshop to order you a copy, or visit your local lirbary. You can also get your hands on a copy direct from the publisher(this will open in a new window).

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