3 Cheers For Up Helly Aa
by Helen Smith -
January only means one thing in Shetland - Up Helly Aa! It's held on the last Tuesday of the month, when nearly 1000 guizers parade around Lerwick with flaming torches and set fire to a viking galley ship that's taken months to build, followed by a night of partying at venues across the town. The main squad is the Jarl Squad, headed by the Guizer Jarl who has worked for 15 years on the Up Helly Aa committee to get to this one night. I was lucky enough to catch up with Neil Robertson who will be this year's Jarl as he was preparing for the big event.
There's a number of events on surrounding Up Helly Aa. Shetland Arts have Fiery Sessions in the afternoon, showcasing local talent, the Shetland Film Archive are screening old and contemporary films of the event through the ages on Tuesday afternoon in Mareel and there's an evening of comedy with Stand Up Helly Aa. Tickets for all are available from Shetland Box Office.
Oh, and be prepared to see some pretty strange sights on Wednesday morning - there's always a few guizers trying to find their way home, still dressed in whatever fancy dress they were wearing the night before! If you're visiting in the summer months you can pop along the Galley Shed to see the Up Helly Aa exhibition - it's open 3rd May to 24th August, after which it's shut to the public so work can begin on building next year's galley.
For those of you not able to see the procession in Lerwick, then you can watch it online thanks to 60 North TV. All that's missing is the smell of the paraffin and the heat from the torches.