Tuning into ÖTILLÖ Islands of Scilly with Zoe Perry

Apr 25, 2017

ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Isles of Scilly 2016 (Photo: Matti Rapila Andersson)
Matti Rapila Andersson
Zoe Perry grew up in a small village on the outskirts of Ludlow in Shropshire (West Midlands), where her folks owned a village store. She started working from a young age, which, as she said, instilled “a strong work ethic in me” and although it was a lovely place to grow up, she always dreamt of living by the sea. “Now I cannot go about my daily life without walking past a breathtaking beach,” she told SLM from her home on the Isles of Scilly, where she lives with “a lovely chap called Chris and his two beautiful daughters”.

Zoe Perry

Sports always played a part of Zoe’s life, whether she was representing her school or county in a range of disciplines, or watching Six Nations Rugby with her Irish dad, Welsh mom and brothers, who like Zoe were born in England, which made for lively TV in the Perry household.

“Swimming was a big part of my life, and I competed from the age of 7 until I was 16. I was a tall child and wasn’t bad at the IM, doing well in the Under-10s Sprints but, alas, by the time I reached my teens, those girls I regularly beat grew about a foot taller and got their revenge!”

Like most ex-swimmers, Zoe qualified as an instructor and proudly shared “one of my greatest achievements in life is that I have taught well over 1,500 children to swim”. Zoe no longer teaches professionally but does still enjoy instructing children of friends, adding, “My latest pupil age 6 is doing very well – watch this space!”

The place, the people and the pubs

Zoe moved to Scilly ten years ago to assist the then-owner of Radio Scilly to get the station off the ground for its first broadcast on September 9th, 2007. Later that year, she left Radio Scilly but instead of returning to media on the mainland, she joined the Francis Family at the “stunning” Star Castle Hotel, where she worked as Events Manager until 2015 to join the events programme with the Islands’ Tourism Team. While on the hunt for new events for 2016, Zoe received an email from Mats Skott and Michael Lemmel, saying they were looking for a UK venue. “The moment I read the backstory of how ÖTILLÖ started in a pub as a bet, I didn’t need any more convincing. I knew then that Scilly would make the perfect destination as I know many an achievement has come from a drunken bet in The Mermaid, the Islands’ most iconic pub!”

The moment I read the backstory of how ÖTILLÖ started in a pub as a bet, I didn’t need any more convincing.

During her time as Events Manager, she received a call from the Managing Director at Radio Scilly, who was leaving and wondered if Zoe would like to take over the station. “The timing wasn’t great and I was unsure how I could potentially manage two full-time jobs, but curiosity got the better of me, and fate played a hand as well.” Zoe became MD of Radio Scilly on March 1st, 2016. “Radio is lots of fun and I employ one person full time and all the other presenters and contributors are volunteers.”

Radio Scilly is supported by the Scilly Lottery (you can sign up online at radioscilly.com): “Every Monday we giveaway £1,000,” explained Zoe, who says Avicii’s “The Nights” is the song that most gets her going. “The lottery is £1 per week to play, and is capped at 2,000 players, so once we hit that magic number, you’ll always have a 1 in 2,000 chance of winning £1,000.”

The station gives away a “staggering” £52,000 a year in prize money, with the remainder of the funds going to keeping the station on air. “We are proud to support community events and projects through donations,” Zoe stated. Recently Radio Scilly sent a group of children to Truro to compete at a music festival and later this year, pupils age 10-11 in year 6 will compete in a tennis and tag rugby tournament, also courtesy of the station.

Talking about life on the Isles of Scilly with its population of around 2,000, Zoe says she loves “the community aspect of life here, the Scilly spirit of pulling together suits my outlook and people will bend over backwards to help in times of need.” Her favourite things are “the people and the pubs”.

The Islands’ main income is through tourism and the biggest event of the year is “The World Pilot Gig Rowing Championships”, which attracts 150 teams from around the world, and is held over the first bank holiday in May. “I sit on the volunteer organising committee, as I believe this event is greatly beneficial to the Islands’ economy.”

“Scilly gets under tourists’ skin and once bitten, they fall in love with the Islands.”

The Islands’ main attractions are crystal clear waters and pristine yet rugged beaches, which captivate the hearts of many visitors. Zoe, who’s a passionate traveller, described the Scilly vibe as “a place where there’s nothing to do, yet not enough time in which to do it”.

“Scilly gets under tourists’ skin and once bitten, they fall in love with the Islands.”

Endurance sports: a whole new market

The Islands’ are gaining a reputation for adventure sports, from a triathlon held every spring to the very popular five islands swim in September. “ÖTILLÖ beautifully compliments these events, which are good for the economy, not just a footfall over the event itself but by enabling press presence and introducing the Islands’ to a whole new market.”

Zoe’s contract as the Islands’ Event Manager has ended but, having instigated ÖTILLÖ coming to Scilly, she feels a certain of responsibility to stay involved and make the event happen again. “I enjoy working alongside Mats and Michael. They are inspiring and exceptionally professional and I have learned a great deal from them.
“The competitors I met last year from 18 different countries were just fabulous people to be around and they certainly enjoyed the course that was created for them, taking them along rugged cliffs, breathtaking beaches and, not to mention, through the world-famous Tresco Abbey Gardens.”

Although Zoe insisted the most “outstanding gig” she ever saw was Red Hot Chili Peppers at Cardiff, she recommended tuning into Radio Scilly’s “Brunch on the Beach”, every Sunday 11am, with 2 hours of love songs and power ballads. “What can I say? I’m a romantic at heart.”


Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue # 2 (Apr/May 2017)

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