Venus effect on Westray
14 July 2010
As Westray locals and archaeologists wait to hear if the Orkney Venus will be named the Best Archaeological Discovery for 2009, the islanders have plenty to celebrate with the “Venus Affect” boosting the economy.
Some local businesses on Westray are reporting a massive increase – in some cases up to 45 per cent - in revenue since last year. This is being attributed to the publicity the island has enjoyed since the discovery of the Neolithic figurine, affectionately known as the Westray Wife, at the Links of Noltland and the subsequent travelling exhibition of the figure around Scotland.
Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Culture and External Affairs, said: “The continuing finds at the Links of Noltland, detailing what life was like during Neolithic and Bronze Age times, has introduced Westray to a whole new audience.
“The travelling exhibition around Historic Scotland sites allowed more than 100,000 people to see the figurine. Now that she is back on Westray the Westray Heritage Centre and local community are benefitting from her appeal also.
“As well as tourism, the people of Westray have thrown incredible support behind the excavations and Historic Scotland is continuing to work hand in hand with the community and the Trust to promote the site as widely as possible.”
The current excavations began in 2006 as a result of wind erosion stripping away the sand dunes that had protected the archaeology for millennia.
The news that local businesses are reporting a 45 per cent increase in revenue is supported by visitor numbers at the Westray Heritage Centre – which is currently exhibiting the figurine – going up from around 700 in May and June last year to 1,700 over the same period this year.
Liz McVicar, of the Westray Heritage Centre, said: “Westray Heritage Centre is always an interesting place to visit. This year, it is an exciting place with which to be associated – there is a real buzz around.
“The large number of visitors to the centre demonstrates the advantage of having the ‘Westray Wife’, a local find, displayed locally – we are so proud to be in this situation in the Heritage Centre.”
Graham Maben owns Westraak guided tours and the Haff Yok café in Pierowall. He said: “What we are finding, this year, is that our Tour Guest and Cafe Customer numbers are up around 10% on last year, at this point. In addition, almost everyone knows about the Westray Wife and, without exception, wants to meet her! As part of our Day Tour, we make sure that everyone is given the chance to meet her at the Heritage Centre, after having visited the site where she was found, last year.
“We are privileged in being able to take our Guests to the site, see the work being done and learn more each day about the latest finds. What I like most, is the willingness of the site directors Graeme and Hazel, to interact with my guests, whenever time permits and impart what knowledge they have of the site up to that precise time.
“Many of the finds are fascinating, not least the Westray Wife, last August. I was on site with a Group of 6 Guests, just half an hour after she was found and had the great pleasure of seeing her before she had a wash! Naturally, all of my Guests were over the moon as they knew they were seeing and handling something very special.”
The Orkney Venus is currently on display at the Westray Heritage Centre and the dig is being followed by people around the globe via a blog at www.westrayheritage.co.uk
Images of the excavations and the figurine can be downloaded at http://hsewsf.sedsh.gov.uk/vanilla/gl.login_page?un=&secureid=BRADMAN99
using user name NOLTLAND and password 130809 NOLTLAND
Notes for editors
- Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.