An Action-Packed Summer Ahead

by Alastair Hamilton -

If you’re visiting Shetland in July or August, there’s a wealth of things to do; and, if you’re one of those who’ve been considering a more permanent move to Shetland, you’ll be curious to know how we occupy ourselves in the summer. Well, here’s the lowdown.

One of the highlights at the beginning of July is the Shetland Nature Festival, about which we have a separate article. It offers just over a week of events, including the Noss Open Day, a long-established favourite, several guided walks and all sorts of other diversions.

Sailing and rowing feature strongly in Shetland’s summer calendar. In late June, we welcomed the Bergen-Shetland and North Sea Triangle Races, featuring dozens of large racing yachts, but local regattas generate just as much interest. The season is now under way: the Brae Regatta runs from the 1st to the 5th, with yacht races and a rowing race. In Yell, Burravoe has a Yoal Regatta on the 1st featuring the traditional six-oared Shetland boat, known as a sixareen. There will be lots of bigger vessels around, too, with one or two cruise liners calling at Lerwick on most days throughout July.

there’s a wealth of things to do

Music is always at the centre of Shetland life and July brings some great performers. New York born Canadian-American folk-rock star, Martha Wainwright, appears at Mareel on the 5th. Daughter of folk legends Loudon Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle, and sister to Rufus, she’s based these days in Montreal. It’ll be an evening of powerful songs, brilliantly sung.

In a different vein, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Strings will be visiting from the 20th to the 22nd of July, with performances in Aith, Yell and Mareel in Lerwick. The programme includes works by J S Bach, Bartok, and Dvorak, concluding with Tchaikovsky’s much-loved, lyrical serenade for strings.

UnstFest, in Britain’s northernmost community, runs from the 8th to the 16th; topping the musical bill are the Peatbog Faeries, winners of the best live act at the Scottish Trad Awards. But the eclectic programme (pdf) features everything from archaeology to flamenco. Other diversions include a sailing regatta, kids’ storytime, farmers’ market and croquet with Pimm’s.

everything from archaeology to flamenco

July also sees a series of dance sessions at Mareel between the 10th and 21st; the first Shetland outing for BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, to be recorded on the 11th; and comedy from Phill Jupitus (Never Mind The Buzzcocks; QI; I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue) on the 22nd. Younger folk will find lots to entertain them at the Shetland Library’s Summer Reading Challenge, for those aged between 4 and 12.And there’s much, much more.

Looking ahead to August, the month kicks off with Shetland Fiddle Frenzy, a dizzy round of workshops, masterclasses, sessions and concerts featuring Shetland’s favourite instrument.

However, much of the month’s action takes place afloat. There are more regattas: the Lerwick one runs from the 4th to the 6th, immediately followed by the second Shetland Boat Week, which includes talks, music, exhibitions, a great choice of boat trips, fishing excursions, knotwork, cookery and much else. Shetland’s own tall ship, the restored sail-fishing vessel Swan, will be seen around the islands, too. Everything is listed in the programme (pdf). The last part of Boat Week overlaps with the Inter-Club Regatta, when all Shetland’s sailing clubs battle it out for honours in Lerwick Harbour.

August also means agricultural shows, with Voe on the 5th, Cunningsburgh on the 9th, Walls on the 12th, Unst on the 26th and Bressay’s Garden and Produce Show on the 27th. These aren’t simply displays of animals and agricultural machinery; there’s lots of produce on display, knitwear, music, and competitions ranging from photography to Victoria sponge or indeed boiled potatoes. They’re always a good place to catch up with friends, too. And of course there are teas and sumptuous homebakes; but if you miss out on those, all is not lost.

Right through the summer, Sunday afternoon teas are run in community halls to raise money for local good causes. On most Sunday afternoons, you’ll have a choice of two or three different venues, all offering home-baked delights and bottomless cups of tea or coffee; and you wouldn’t be the first to fit in more than one hall!

sumptuous homebakes

The month ends with ScreenPlay 2017, Shetland’s highly-regarded film festival, curated by Mark Kermode (BBC and Observer film critic), film historian Linda Ruth Williams and Shetland’s own Kathy Hubbard.

If you’re one of the many folk who’ve moved to Shetland, you may well have become involved in running these events, for this is a community where organisational flair and an extra pair of hands (not to mention baking skills) are always very welcome.

If packing all this in seems a bit of a challenge, well, we do have other less demanding options. When the sun shines, you can simply head for the beach.

Posted in: Community