April 2012 Move Shetland Newsletter

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Hello! I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to our April edition.

Now that the clocks have moved forward, evenings are beginning to fill up with all kinds of outdoor pursuits. Gardeners, golfers, walkers, cyclists, anglers and yachtspeople will all be making use of those rapidly-lengthening days. If April brings more of the warm, dry weather that marked late March, some people's thoughts will turn to cutting peats for next winter's fuel, a custom still practised in many parts of Shetland. March was also memorable for even more displays of the Aurora Borealis in what has been a very good season: here's a stunning image from David Gifford's website

Whatever the season, music is never far away in Shetland. Hardly had the Royal Scottish National Orchestra left our shores - having made many new friends - but the Shetland Community Orchestra treated music lovers to an ambitious programme that included a magical account of Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' and a performance of Beethoven's fifth symphony. During March, we've also had the annual Schools Music Festival; 250 entries in 24 classes involved more than a thousand children in four days of performances. Meanwhile, the Shetland Folk Festival is only a few weeks away and some events are already sold out: if you're interested in attending, you'll have to be quick. The latest ticket information is on the festival website.

A rich musical life is just one of the things that makes Shetland special. As I report below, Shetland has once again been judged to offer the best quality of life in rural Scotland, scoring very well on health, prosperity, education and safety. If you're thinking of making the move to Shetland, as many others have done, we hope this newsletter offers a flavour of the life you could enjoy in the islands.

We have a large amount of essential information about Shetland on our website but we also recommend that you make a couple of reconnaissance trips to experience island life, ideally at different seasons. You might also like to take a look at the Shetland Visitor 2012 brochure, which is packed with all you need to know when planning your visit.

If we can help in any way, please don't hesitate to contact our team!

Norwegian Prime Minister To Visit On Norwegian National Day

Norway's Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, will be in Shetland on Thursday 17 May, Norwegian National Day, and will open the new museum in the village of Scalloway.

In last month's newsletter, we revealed that the late David Howarth's book about the 'Shetland Bus' continued to be a local best-seller. During the Nazi occupation of Norway, the Norwegian resistance movement was supported from Shetland by the clandestine and hazardous operation, which involved small fishing boats in ferrying people and materials across the North Sea. In those years, the close ties that have long existed between Shetland and Norway were reinforced and the Prime Minister's decision to be in Shetland on National Day demonstrates their enduring strength.

At the Shetland Bus memorial, which stands on Scalloway's waterfront, the Prime Minister will pay his respects to those who lost their lives in the operation. Mr Stoltenberg will also take part in a local celebration on 17 May involving school children, descendants of Shetland Bus veterans and visiting Norwegians. The veteran Norwegian Royal Navy vessel and submarine chaser Hitra, which participated in the Shetland Bus, the Coastguard vessel Bergen, and several veteran ships from Norway will also be docked in Scalloway for the opening of the museum. Mr Stoltenberg will visit the Scalloway School, where pupils will show him a school display on the ties between Norway and Shetland. Plans are also being made for a parade and party to mark the occasion.

Shetland Islands Council's Convener, Sandy Cluness, said that he was delighted that the Prime Minister had accepted the invitation to open the new museum. "Scalloway's - and Shetland's - historic links with Norway can only be strengthened by the visit, and I'm particularly pleased that Mr. Stoltenberg has chosen to help celebrate his country's National Day with us here in Shetland."

Shetland Tops Quality Of Life Survey

The Bank of Scotland's annual survey has, once again, found that the islands offer the best quality of life in rural Scotland.

In the study, which measures a wide range of indicators, Aberdeenshire finished in second place, with Orkney, East Lothian and Moray completing the top five.

Shetland residents emerge as healthier, wealthier, better educated and safer than the Scottish average. Life expectancy for both men and women is higher than in mainland Scotland and 93% report themselves as in good or fairly good health. Average earnings are £30 a week higher than the average and the employment rate, at 84%, is 15% higher. Meanwhile, in relation to local earnings, house prices are lower than they are elsewhere; the average house in Shetland costs 4.2 times local average earnings, compared with 4.7 times in mainland Scotland.

When it comes to education, 91% gain at least 5 standard grades at general level, 13% more than the Scottish average; at higher grade, the Shetland pass rate is 80%, 5% better than elsewhere.

Crime levels in Shetland are lower than average. The survey also shows that people fear crime less in the islands than their counterparts elsewhere.

Shetland residents suffer few disadvantages. There is about three hours per week less sunshine than the average for Scotland, though locals would say that the absence of darkness around midsummer more than makes up for that. Broadband access is not as good as in some areas; however, the laying of new fibre-optic links will bring improvements.

Bank of Scotland economist Nitesh Patel said: 'In recent years, the Shetland isles have performed consistently well against a wide range of indicators to demonstrate that its residents have amongst the best quality of life in Scotland'.

Andy Steven, manager of Promote Shetland, added: 'Shetland is a very special place. We're proud of its uniqueness, the quality of the produce and the beauty of the landscape. We hope this news will encourage more people to consider Shetland as a place to visit, live, work and invest.'

Commonwealth Games Ambassadors Appointed

Kristoffer Thomason and Lauren Odie, both from Lerwick, have been announced as Shetland's Youth Legacy Ambassadors for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

They will join colleagues from across Scotland in inspiring young people to get the most out of hosting the Commonwealth Games and other major events such as London 2012.

Kristoffer said: "We plan to organise local events to bring together our community and engage young people in sports activities. We also hope to visit Shetland's primary schools and present the themes of the Commonwealth Games: Active, Sustainable, Connected and Flourishing."

Shetland's Youth Legacy Ambassadors travelled to Glasgow to meet with other Ambassadors and discuss ways to inspire people in their local community to become more active. Lauren said: "I had a really enjoyable weekend; I got to meet new people and discuss how to promote the Commonwealth Games. We were involved in team building exercises, and had the opportunity to meet Shona Robison, the Scottish Government Minister for the Commonwealth Games and Sports."

Kristoffer and Lauren have set up a Facebook page where you can find out more about what they're doing.

Simon King Becomes Patron Of Shetland Nature Festival

Well-known naturalist and television presenter, Simon King, has accepted an invitation to become patron of the Shetland Nature Festival, which in 2012 runs from 7 to 15 July.

Simon King's BBC television series, Shetland Diaries, was an instant success, chronicling his family's adventures as they explored Shetland through the seasons. He said:

"Shetland has a wild magic all of its own. This land of sea and sky is bubbling with natural promise and the chance of a surprise encounter around every bay and over every hill. The Shetland Nature Festival celebrates this magic and encourages everyone to get out there, explore and enjoy the world around them. I'm very proud to support the festival and hope you discover the beauty and glory of wild Shetland for yourselves."

The festival covers all aspects of Shetland's unique natural heritage, and with everything from guided walks to family days out and evening talks there's something for everyone. There are opportunities to get close to puffins at some of Europe's most spectacular seabird colonies, find some of Britain's rarest flowers and explore Shetland's complex geology. Some lucky festival-goers may well catch sight of otters or even killer whales around the coast.

If you're thinking of making the move to Shetland, we always recommend that you make a couple of 'taster' visits, at different times of year; the Nature Festival is just one of many events on which you might base a trip.

Boost For Shetland Fisheries Research Follows Sustainability Award

In the wake of a coveted accreditation for Shetland shellfish, a Shetland research centre has been given funding to enable it to support sustainable fisheries.

Scientific research by the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway was critical for Shetland king scallops and brown and velvet crabs becoming the first fisheries of their kind in the world to be certified as sustainably managed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) last month. Visiting the college, Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead announced an investment of £150,000 over the next three years to support the Centre's research work.

Mr Lochhead said:

"The pristine waters around Shetland produce some of the world's highest quality seafood, and shellfish in particular. It's an outstanding achievement for Shetland to achieve MSC status for three fisheries, which I'm sure will deliver an economic boost for the isles in the coming years.

However, this would not have been possible without the application from the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation being underpinned by the scientific research carried out at the NAFC Marine Centre. This funding will help the NAFC work with more fishermen and conduct research into how stocks can be sustainably managed and harvested."

Dr. Martin Robinson, Head of Marine Science and Technology at NAFC, added:

"The MSC awards passed to the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation by the Minister last week were the culmination of a long process of building solid working relationships between industry and applied scientists. We are delighted by the announcement made by the Cabinet Secretary on his important visit to Shetland."

Anderson High School's 'Learning Community' Gains Inspectors' Praise

After a very favourable report from inspectors, Lerwick's Anderson High School has won more plaudits, this time for its 'learning community'.

Last month, we reported that the school was performing very well and that in some respects it was being hailed as an example of best practice in Scotland. Now, a further report has assessed the impact of community learning and development on young people, adult learners and communities in the school's catchment area.

They found that the 'impact on young people' of the learning community was 'excellent', stating that 'young people enjoy access to a very wide range of excellent, inclusive, well planned and appropriately targeted learning opportunities and experiences'.

Adult Learning was praised for being effectively targeted, with many 'non-traditional learners' gaining new confidence, skills and employment. The report states that 'adult learners with highly challenging personal issues have benefited greatly from life-changing experiences' thanks to the adult learning programmes.

The report also commends the 'collaboration between partners in the statutory and voluntary sector'. Innovative approaches were seen to reduce antisocial behaviour, develop the skills of local people, build community capacity and aid community cohesion.

The full inspection report is available from the Education Scotland website.

Shetland's Creative Community Benefits From Grant Scheme

Shetland has always been home to artists and craftspeople but, in recent years, the creative community has been strengthened by a local award scheme.

Since 2007, Shetland Arts has awarded £64,000 towards 77 successful applications from craft makers and artists living and working in all parts of Shetland. Applicants are mentored by specialist arts officers, supporting them in achieving higher standards in their creative work. Some successful applicants are members of arts groups, such as the Shetland Arts & Crafts Association and the Veer North visual artists' group.

Continuing its support for the creative and professional development of practitioners working across all art forms, Shetland Arts has announced a further round of its two grant schemes, both of which are funded in partnership with Creative Scotland and Shetland Islands Council. The grants are aimed at individual Shetland-based artists and craft makers who are already working full-time or part-time in their creative practices. Cash awards up to £1500 are granted towards 70% of the cost of applicants' own development projects to advance or improve their work.

One craft maker who applied for a grant is Cheryl Jamieson of Glansin' Glass in Unst. She designs and creates beautiful fused glass pieces. Cheryl said:

'The grants have made the world of difference to my business as they have allowed me to explore new techniques of working with glass. These newly acquired skills, such as screen-printing on glass, feed in to my working practice and mean I can extend the range of products I make. I think it's important for a craft business in Shetland to keep coming up with something new as we have very loyal customers locally who are always looking for something different.'

Another maker, Emma Blain of Aamos Designs, said:

'The award allowed me the time, resources and equipment to teach myself how to design and create handbags, incorporating my own fabric as well as a variety of other materials, including cord and canvas. I have been interested in creating a range of handbags using my fabric for some time and the grant gave me the funds I needed to learn bag construction from the very beginning, right up to producing a final product. I launched the new bag collection at last year's Christmas Craft Fair in November and they were very popular, and continue to be a favourite with my customers. I intend to continue designing and creating new styles of handbags to add to my collection, with new work coming out in the summer.'

New work produced by these and other craft makers and artists can be seen in UK galleries and shops, on websites or online shops, and at many outlets in Shetland.

Feast Of Colour In Kristi Cumming's Show

Another of Shetland's many artists, Kristi Cumming, has a new collection of work in Da Gadderie at Shetland Museum and Archives; the show runs until 29 April.

In 1999, Kristi graduated with a BA(Hons) in Fine Art from Duncan of Jordanstone art college in Dundee. After two decades of living elsewhere, Kristi returned to Shetland in 2006 and the works in her new collection have been created since then. She explains that her art was initially created using coloured light and water alone:

'I've always been really excited by the true colours of prismatic light. Its refractions and reflections, and the way water carries and accentuates this. I became absorbed in creating liquid fields of true colour.'

This exhibition continues to explore that fluidity of colour. Though seemingly grounded in a landscape setting, these bold paintings play with the unexpected fluorescence of the modern environment.

Kristi's painting is in the tradition of abstract expressionism and is in part inspired by the New York Colour Field work of the 1950s, of which the best-known exponent was probably Mark Rothko. Kristi evokes the Shetland landscape, revelling in what she describes as its 'intense saturated hues'.

Kristi is a member of Veer North and has exhibited throughout the UK and internationally since 1999.

Shetland Youth Theatre Tackles 'Lord of the Flies'

Shetland Youth Theatre, known throughout Scotland and beyond for its innovative approach to theatre, is to offer a stage version of Lord of the Flies, one of the best known novels of the 20th century.

Originally written by William Golding in 1954, the novel inspired films in 1963 and 1990 and was adapted for the stage in 1991. It tells the story of a group of English public school boys marooned on an island; a veneer of respectability gives way to a brutal battle for survival and power.

The production has given the company an interesting problem to solve. In the original story, all the characters are male, but most members of Shetland Youth Theatre are young women. The play's director, John Haswell, says that introducing female characters has opened up a completely new dimension to the piece. If anything, he says, it is even more shocking. 'Instead of being purely about class politics, our version now brings sexual politics into the frame and the piece is even stronger as a result.'

Young Promoters Shortlisted For Award

Shetland produces many talented young musicians, but it's not so often that those who organise events are honoured. That may be about to change.

Shetland Young Promoters Group (SYPG) have been shortlisted for the 2012 Young Scot Awards in the 'Arts' category. On Thursday 26 April, over 500 guests will attend the glittering awards ceremony to recognise and celebrate the outstanding achievements of Scotland's young people in 2011.

Formed in 2009, SYPG is a group of under 25s who organise events in conjunction with experienced promoters, technical crews and music industry professionals. The young people learn all aspects of event management; including promotion, business skills, health and safety, sound engineering and lighting; and gain practical experience of event management and promotion.

SYPG encourages the creation of new bands as well as supporting the development of existing young bands in Shetland. The group also gives younger audiences a chance to experience live performances in a safe, alcohol free environment and provides young up-and-coming musicians, bands and DJs with performance opportunities.

Blog Of The Month

Our blog this month comes from Nat Hall, who lives in the lively community of Sandwick, in the south mainland of Shetland, and describes herself as a poet, pirate, visual artist, 'maritimer' and 'day-dreamer par excellence'. As you'll gather from the blog, she is also an accomplished photographer.