From The Mayor.eu
The annual award was established as a way to support small local communities living on fairly isolated isles
Ø is that most Danish of letters, which we have no idea how to pronounce. It is also the Danish word for “island”. And the Nordic country surely has heaps of them – something like Greece of the North. These islands, many of which are small and only inhabited by a handful of people, have developed their own sense of identity and community feel.
These communities also suffer from unique problems, such as precarious transport connectivity to the mainland, a sense of isolation, depopulation and climate vulnerability. With all of that in mind, back in 2020, a partnership between Forenet Kredit, the Association of Danish Small Islands and the Landdistrikters Fællesråd established an annual competition called Island of the Year. Its aim is to bring more attention to these communities and to encourage people to do more about them and preserve their unique identities.
The committee behind the award has chosen Omø as the Danish Island of the Year 2023. Every year has its own theme, and the jury has decided that this tiny 4.5 km2 isle has met the idea behind the “Development of the island through local resources” slogan in the best way possible.
There’s a prize, too
Omø has only 159 residents. There is a daily ferry connection to Stigsnæs ferry port at Skælskør – a trip that takes approximately 50 minutes. The island has a marina, a grocery store and a school that offers education up to and including the 6th grade. It also has associations where year-round and leisure residents are helped to create activities throughout the year.
It was this civic spirit of the islanders that got the attention of the jury the most. Omø Boligforening, for instance, has built four elderly-friendly homes and an activity centre using, among other things, volunteer labour, and the island’s dykes have re-established safety on the island after it was badly hit by a storm surge in 2006.
The average age on Omø is approximately 60 years, and it is hoped to be able to attract more families with children. The island’s settlement group is therefore working to secure test housing and, in the long term, would also like more rental housing for future islanders. And then the islanders have a very good collaboration with Slagelse Municipality, which is responsive to their issues.
Being awarded the status of Island of the Year also brings a financial prize with it to the tune of DKK 50,000 (about 6,700 euros), which will be given to the community in help of their projects. The second and third runners-up split the same amount between them.
All Danish islands without a fixed bridge connection have the opportunity to apply for the title every year.