August 2010 Move Shetland Newsletter
Here is our newsletter from August 2010. We hope you find it of interest. If you're considering a move to Shetland, please don't hesitate to contact us for more advice using either the contact details at the end of this Newsletter, or you can reach us via the contact page on the Shetland.org website.
PURE Energy, based in Shetland's northern most island, Unst, is to undertake a three-year project to develop domestic-scale power units that can provide both electricity and heating from hydrogen. An electronics engineer who hails from Sicily, Vincenzo Ortisi, will work on the project and Lews Castle College in Stornoway, on the isle of Lewis, is also involved. Although generating electricity from hydrogen is not, in itself, very efficient, the picture improves dramatically if the unused energy is applied either to domestic heating or indeed to refrigeration systems.
Over several years, the PURE Project has developed a worldwide reputation for innovation in hydrogen technology. They make hydrogen from wind energy and have used it in a car powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. From their Shetland base, PURE's research team are often involved in advising on hydrogen technology worldwide.
Flying the Atlantic or long-haul to Los Angeles, Sydney or Beijingis no doubt the ambition of many airline pilots but, for Captain Eddie Watt, serving the communities on Shetland's smallest islands has been one of the highlights of his career. Captain Watt recently featured in a documentary shown on Australian television, also available on DVD.
He spent several years flying the routes to Fair Isle, Foula and other remote communites. These services are operated by sturdy, eight-seater Islander aircraft that can land and take off on very short airstrips. They're vital lifelines for the communities concerned. As well as passengers, they carry everything from a box of groceries to a double bass.
These days, Captain Watt still serves Shetland but he flies the 34-seat Saab 340s with which FlyBe's franchise partner, Loganair, links Shetland to five Scottish airports and, in summer, Bergen in Norway. However, he hasn't lost touch with his former island customers; if business or pleasure takes them outside Shetland, he offers them a warm welcome aboard the Saab.
Britain's most northerly sandy beach, at Skaw, on the island of Unst, has attracted praise from The Times, which recently featured it in its top ten beaches and placed it at number 4 as a wild surf venue. When Shetland.org visited recently, the weather was calm and plunging gannets, rather than surfers, caught the eye; but in any conditions, it feels a magical place. The beach itself faces east but, just a short walk beyond it, the cliffs of Unst face an ocean that stretches north to Greenland, Svalbard and the North Pole.
If the intentions of Shetland Arts are fulfilled, the already successful Bonhoga Gallery will be even more of a focus for Shetland's creative community in future. The gallery occupies what was once a watermill in the valley of Weisdale, about twelve miles north-west of Lerwick. It opened in 1994 as the first purpose-built gallery for visual and applied art in Shetland, making it the most northerly in the UK.
The main gallery space is on the top floor and the middle floor includes a shop selling cards, books, craft jewellery and many other beautiful, design-led items. On the lowest floor there is more gallery space in a café offering delicious snacks and light meals that make good use of Shetland's superb local produce. Diners sit in a conservatory overlooking the stream and stand a good chance of spotting one of the herons that hunt trout here.
However, the building is too small to meet all the demands now being made on it. Shetland Arts wants to create a sensitive extension that will have all the appeal of the existing building but will offer much more space for exhibitions. A larger café is planned, too. The existing gallery is likely to be converted into workshop space, for which there is a steady demand from Shetland's expanding arts community.
Shetland Arts recognises that finding the million pounds required will be a challenge in today's climate, but they believe that funders will be impressed by the superb setting and by the plan to power the building using hydro electricity from the stream. If the money can be found, the new facilities will be open by 2015.
We previewed the current exhibition at the Bonhoga Gallery, Mirrie Lace, last month and our picture shows visitors admiring one of the many images of Shetland lace. They are projected onto the walls and floor by some very new technology, LED units that are cool enough not to burn the sample of lace fixed next to the projector's lamp. The next exhibition at the Bonhoga Gallery will feature rings and finger ornaments created by emerging and established international makers, together with photography and a film by local artists.
For entrepreneurs in Shetland, or anyone thinking of moving their business to the islands, one of the bonuses is the high level of media coverage that Shetland attracts. Recent items have included one in the Daily Telegraph about Simon King, the wildlife cameraman and presenter whose Shetland Diaries were shown on BBC2 earlier this year.
Wanderlust magazine also features Shetland in its current issue, focusing on the way in which the Shetland Folk Festival reaches into every part of the community. The Folk Festival was also the setting for Fiddler's Bid at Twenty (Fiddler's Bid aig Fichead), an hour-long documentary on BBC Alba on 31 July featuring the long-established Shetland band. The programme, which included interviews with band members as well as a very generous helping of their rich and varied repertoire, is available until Saturday 7 August if you have access to the BBC Alba page on the BBC iPlayer; it will also be repeated on BBC Alba at 10pm on Friday 6 August. Although made for the BBC's Gaelic service, the programme is almost entirely in English, with some Shetland dialect, since Shetland isn't a Gaelic-speaking area. Meanwhile, Food and Travel magazine has just had a writer and photographer in Shetland to compile a major article on the islands and their produce.
Over the last few years, many more programmes or articles have featured Shetland and at least one feature film and a television series are in prospect. There are engaging blogs, too, such as Shetland My Love which give a great insight into what life is like in the islands.
Some of this coverage happens spontaneously, of course: Simon King was simply 'smitten' with Shetland and wanted to make programmes here. However, Promote Shetland and the staff ofthe Council's Economic Development Unit are continuously involved in encouraging journalists, broadcasters and film makers to visit the islands.
The Seventh Shetland Blues Festival, taking place between Friday 3rd September and Sunday 5th September, features six nominees for the British Blues awards. Visiting artistes this year are Connie Lush and Blues Shouter, the Guy Tortora Band, Hokie Joint, Baby Isaac, Kris Dollimore, Dale Storr and the Bad Taste Blues Band. Events will take place in Shetland's capital, Lerwick and in the villages of Scalloway, Brae and Sandwick, Connie Lush and Blues Shouter from Liverpool is this year's headline band. Connie has been nominated in the female vocalist section of the British Blues Award and is widely recognised as one of the finest blues singers that the United Kingdom has ever produced. She has a powerful presence and her repertoire includes both old favourites and her own compositions.
Now based in London, Guy Tortora hails from Pasadena, California and his original music straddles blues, jazz, folk and roots as well as interpreting the work of other writers in these genres with depth and feeling. Hokie Joint, with four 2010 Blues Awards nominees, play a refreshing brand of raw blues based music, some of it in slower tempi and some compellingly danceable.
Baby Isaac, from Fife, capture the essence of 50s Chicago blues and west coast swing;influences include such blues greats as T-Bone Walker, BB King, Little Walterand Sonny Terry. Kris Dollimore, whose credits include appearances with Jools Holland and Jay Leno, plays gentle instrumentals or foot-tapping boogie with equal conviction. Dale Storr's New Orleans piano show can feature anything from a classically influenced minuet to a latin rhumba. The Bad Taste Blues Band hails from Orkney and will be running workshops for schools. Shetland-based blues bands will also be performing. With such a wealth of talent, it promises to be a great weekend.
Another, very different, kind of music featured prominently in Shetland during July. Islanders enjoyed a visit from the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, formed thirty years ago, whose 120 members are regarded world-wide as leading exponents of massed fiddle-playing. They performed a new air in tribute to Reesa McGinn and Betty Henderson, Shetland players who used to be members of the orchestra. Other items on their programme included a large-scale work, Highland Cathedral, which also features bagpipes. Also appearing on the bill was a specially-formed group of young Shetland fiddlers, Stradivarious, all of them pupils of local instrumental tutors. It was a wide-ranging programme of music that delighted the audience.
Two of Jamie Oliver's team at his Fifteen Restaurant recently visited Shetland to see for themselves the source of the ingredients that they buy from the islands. They were shown round by Alasdair Macpherson, whose company, Shetland's Finest, sends top-quality seafood to some of Britain's outstanding restaurants and other outlets in the UK, Europe and the United States. Andrew Parkinson, Executive Chef, and Tony Welch, Head of Buying, were clearly impressed by what they saw during their visit, which took in a mussel farm, the Lerwick fish market and a short fishing trip. Mr Parkinson said that they had had an "amazing" visit. He added that the trip left him "no choice but to continue to purchase even more produce from Shetland for use on our menus at Fifteen Restaurant London."
Fifteen Restaurant is run by the Jamie Oliver Foundation, which works to raise awareness of the importance of nutritious food and cooking and its impact on people's lives. The restaurant is intended to inspire people who are trying to overcome disadvantage, for example homelessness, drug abuse or unemployment, in the hope that they may be able to build a successful career in the restaurant business. As well as the London restaurant, there are branches in Cornwall, Amsterdam and Melbourne.
With the arrival of hundreds of people from the Shetland diaspora for the Hamefarin (Homecoming) this year's Shetland summer has been even busier than usual. Endless days around midsummer offer opportunities for all kinds of outdoor pursuits and there's really no let-up during August.
Major events include the Shetland Fiddle Frenzy, which features not only fiddle (and guitar) playing but also creative writing, art and textiles, in an annual summer school. This year, it will also include the first outing by a new Shetland "super-group" that includes around 25 of the islands' finest young musicians, among them Young Fiddler of the Year Liza Fullerton and jazz saxophonist Norman Willmore, of Norman and the Folding Deckchairs fame. Their repertoire will straddle jazz, big-band tunes and Shetland traditional favourites.
August sees four agricultural shows, each of which is a great social event. There's also a continuing programme of regattas and fishing competitions and a host of other things to do: feature films, talks and many opportunities to enjoy the Shetland tradition of Sunday teas in local halls, after which it may be advisable to go on one of the guided walks or even a charity fun run.
If you'd like to catch a fuller flavour of what's on offer during August, the Shetland Times publishes a what's on diary on its website.
One of the more unusual activities on offer this year has been parkour, made famous in the opening scenes of the James Bond film, Casino Royale. It has quickly become one of the UK's most exciting new sports, inspiring young people to get active by running through an area, tackling obstacles as they go. Participants use gymnastics moves to clear obstacles quickly and use mental discipline and creative thinking to find the fastest route through a course.
Free workshops were led by two of Scotland's premier parkour coaches, Chris Grant and Scott Houston, from Glasgow Parkour Coaching, both of whom trained with Sebastien Foucan – the French founder of parkour, who also appeared in the opening scenes of Casino Royale with British actor, Daniel Craig. The workshops aimed to teach young people the skills required to practise parkour safely and responsibly, whilst encouraging them to engage in a physical activity that can also help to build their self-confidence.