Graduation Tales: Exploring the challenges facing people on the UK’s smallest islands

Caldey Island.jpg

Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire

A researcher from the University of South Wales (USW) has spent more than six years studying the challenges and opportunities faced by people living on some of the smallest islands in the UK.

Neil Lodwick, a former Director of Human Resources at Bridgend County Borough Council, is graduating from USW with a PhD in small island sustainability.

For his research he compared Caldey Island in Pembrokeshire, Inis Orr on the west coast of Ireland and Iona, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, to explore the ways in which their residents live in a sustainable environment.

Neil Lodwick.jpgDuring his 35-year career in the public sector, Neil has been a part-time student at USW, and was one of the first cohort to study its Masters of Business Administration (MBA) course in 1990. He has travelled Europe presenting his research, including to organisations committed to supporting small island sustainability.

“I chose to study these places as small islands have always fascinated me,” said Neil, who is a member of the University’s Centre for Social Policy.

“They are habitual sites of fascination and emotional off-loading, religious-historical pilgrimage and locations which often embrace an unspoilt environment.

Class-of-2021.png“Academic research into small island sustainability is scarce, so I decided to carry out a multi-site ethnography of Caldey, Inis Orr and Iona, studying people’s culture through their customs, habits and mutual differences.

“Using this method helped me to examine the key factors which arguably encapsulate sustainability; social structure, community and culture, migration, connectivity, governance, economy, and environment.

“I explored all of these topics individually explored by engaging closely with the island residents and recording their viewpoints.”

Neil now plans to revisit each island to share the outcomes of his research, as well as presenting to organisations such as the Irish and Scottish Islands Federations and the European Small Islands Network. He is also planning joint research projects with the Centre for Scottish Islands Studies, based at the University of the West of Scotland.