Duncan McLean of Kirkness and Gorie & Chairperson of Kirkwall BID has been writing a weekly column for the Orcadian, titled 'Diary of a Shopkeeper', if you happened to miss it, here's your chance to read his latest entry:
Business Improvement District is the slightly boring phrase behind the initials in Kirkwall BID. The
organisation itself is small but far from boring.
BIDs started in Canada in the 1970s, arriving in Scotland in 2007 and Orkney in 2013. The idea is that
every business in a town centre or other area contributes a small fee each year, based on the
rateable value of their property. The money is pooled, and a board of volunteers drawn from town
businesses decide how best to spend the money to support and promote the town.
Things can be achieved through working together that no one could do alone.
Kirkwall BID charges a lower annual levy that any other BID in the UK, but what we have achieved
with very little has been pretty remarkable. Think back to events such as the amazing Victorian
carousel that provided free fun for all last November. Or the Kirkwall Gift Card, that allows you to
buy a pre-charged card as a present, knowing that the money must be spent in a town centre
business. It’s the gift of choice – but always supports the local economy.
There’s the Halloween parade, complete with pipe band and scary costumes, the Nasty Neeps, the
Easter Egg hunt, and much more. It’s not all about shopping: BID tries to make Kirkwall a fun place
for all the family to spend time in.
So what do we do when getting together in large groups is prohibited? When most shops and all
cafes and pubs are closed? When going to a gig, or even popping into the library, are distant
Mostly we are working online. On Facebook and Instagram we constantly update offers, new
products and delivery initiatives, helping businesses that are open get in touch with customers. We
also have a special Facebook group for business members, a source of the latest news about
government grants and other support.
Behind the scenes, BID is involved in virtual discussions, meetings and planning sessions with the
OIC, and other local and national business organisations. We’re trying to get across the impact of
the virus on the town right now – and the toll it’s likely to take in the months and years ahead. And
we’re lobbying to shape the response of the public bodies, to try and get the right kinds of help at
the right time.
Of course, we have to keep thinking of the future too. We have plans in place for a great series of
events whenever the town can safely emerge from lockdown. Will it be wise to gather hundreds of
folk together in the street this autumn and winter? We don’t know yet: but we have to plan in the
hope that it is – and be prepared to change those plans if it’s necessary to do so.
Most excitingly, we have just launched a new initiative called Kirkwall BID and Beyond. Funded by
Scotland’s Improvement Districts, and Kirkwall BID itself, this is a special project on top of all our
other work. It makes use of our social media, other communication channels, and above all our
hard-working part-time staff, Kelly, Sally and Laura, to reach out to businesses beyond the traditional
In these exceptional times, if Kirkwall BID can be useful by going above and beyond its normal role,
then we’re very happy to do so.
Chair, Kirkwall BID