August 2012 Newsletter
Hi, I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to the August edition of our newsletter.
Although it's been quite cool in Shetland this summer, thanks to northerly winds, it's also been mostly dry, without the heavy rain that caused so much disruption farther south. In fact, as my picture shows, some of our smaller hill lochs simply dried up by mid-July.
It's been decent weather for coastal or hill walks or cycle runs, for fishing and for golf, or simply for enjoying the Shetland landscape. As ever, there's the profusion of wild flowers that's so much a part of summer in the islands. Cruise liners have been regular callers at Lerwick and our many visitors seem to be enjoying themselves. Local people have, as always, been organising a huge range of summer activities including yachting regattas, a variety of local carnivals such as the unique Big Bannock, several agricultural shows, the summer football season and, of course, the celebrated Sunday afternoon teas. The annual Nature Festival went well and many people enjoyed encounters with Shetland's fantastic wildlife. Sadly, there was bad news about the puffin chick at Sumburgh Head. As RSPB warden Helen Moncrieff explains in her blog , it came under some kind of attack; but it's not clear exactly what happened.
As the Shetland Times' monthly list of events suggests, there's so much going on that it's a wonder that anyone is finding time to watch the Olympic Games, but they do seem to have been followed in Shetland as keenly as anywhere else. In fact, the thirtieth Olympiad has touched the islands in a number of ways, as I explain below.
Once again, the quality of life that people can enjoy in Shetland has been highlighted by the much-publicised 'happiness ratings' that were recently calculated by the Office for National Statistics. Along with Orkney and the Western Isles, the islands scored highest in the UK. The full details are available on the BBC website and Chris Leadbeater, blogging on the Daily Mail's travel website , is clearly a convert!
As always, we recommend that, if you're thinking of settling in Shetland, you should make a couple of visits at different times of year in order to see if this is the place for you. It's a good idea to link your visits to whichever of our festivals or events especially appeals to you. As well as being enjoyable in their own right, attending one of these will give you a chance to experience the community spirit that is such an important part of what Shetland is about. We've all the information you need for planning a trip at visit.shetland.org and my colleague Abby's newsletter has all the latest information for visitors.
Belle Rings Out For Olympic Launch
Just a few weeks after the visit of the Olympic torch relay, Shetland played its part in All the Bells, a UK-wide project celebrating the opening of the Olympic Games on the morning of Friday 27 July.
At 8:12 a.m. that morning, the aptly named Belle Spence, along with 40 others of all ages, rang bells for three minutes as quickly and as loudly as possible on Skaw beach in Unst, Shetland's most northerly island, heralding the beginning of the Olympic Games across the UK. The bell-ringers' efforts were broadcast live on BBC Radio Scotland via a satellite link and were also recorded by BBC Radio Shetland. Before ringing the bell, Belle appeared on BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans' Breakfast Show, talking about the unique part that she and her fellow community members were set to play in this nationwide project.
Work No. 1197: All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes , aka All the Bells, is a project created by Turner Prize-winning artist and musician Martin Creed. Mr Creed attended the Slade School of Art in London and has had numerous solo exhibitions and projects around the world. All the Bells was commissioned by London 2012 to welcome the beginning of the Olympic Games.
The project saw bells ringing simultaneously for three minutes at more than 5,000 places across the UK. As well as church, school and town hall bells, bicycle bells and doorbells were pressed into service. The bell used by Belle to ring in the games was an antique, handheld bell, kindly loaned by the Unst Boat Haven, a local museum. The bell was at one time used by the Baltasound herring station to signal a fish auction.
Hansel of Film Covers The UK
Shetland's arts agency has been playing its part in the Cultural Olympiad by organising a unique film-makers' relay, Hansel of Film, between Shetland and Southampton.
The making of short films, often by groups of young people, has blossomed in Shetland in recent years and has been featured in the islands' annual film festival, ScreenPlay. The project has taken films made by Shetlanders and others to twenty venues around the country. New films are introduced during the tour and the film cans are transported between venues by volunteers, invariably by some unusual means. The first batch of films left Shetland in a classic sports car.
It all adds up to a national celebration of home-made short films that will culminate in a marathon screening of over 100 examples at Screenplay 2012, between 4 and 9 September. The venue will be Mareel, Shetland's new £12.2m music, cinema and creative industries centre, which is due to open shortly.
Trailer Gives First Glimpse Of New BBC Drama
The first fruits of the filming done in Shetland for a new two-part thriller due to be broadcast in November have appeared in a BBC trailer for a new series of original dramas that's being aired during the Olympics. Called simply 'Shetland', and perhaps aiming to emulate the success of recent Scandinavian crime dramas, the story is based on 'Red Bones', one of writer Ann Cleeves' Shetland quartet. This video report by BBC Shetland's John Johnston recalls a rather misty day's shooting on location.
Meanwhile, Ann Cleeves has decided to write a second Shetland quartet of novels. The first of them, 'Dead Water', will appear in early 2013. The story features a journalist whose body is found aboard a boat and will once again test the skills of detective Jimmy Perez, whose character is played in 'Shetland' by Douglas Henshall.
Local Business Wins Plaudit From Dragons' Den Panellist
A camera shop in Lerwick has attracted praise from Theo Paphitis, one of the 'dragons' who regularly test the business plans of budding entrepreneurs on BBC television.
Mr Paphitis invites small businesses to send him, via Twitter, information about their firm and, each Sunday, he selects those whose sales pitches he finds most appealing. He then retweets their submissions to his followers, who number more than 260,000.
The Camera Centre's owner, local photographer Ben Mullay, was delighted to have been chosen. His tweet was 'Can you hear us from Shetland? UK's most exciting camera store cleverly hidden - but easy to find at www.thecameracentre.net.'
Mull 2 Muckle: A New Challenge
Shetland-based writer and broadcaster Tom Morton recently undertook a new challenge, a cycle ride from the Mull of Galloway - Scotland's southernmost extremity - to Muckle Flugga in Shetland, which (barring the rock known as Out Stack, a few hundred metres to the north) is Britain's northernmost point. The trip was intended to promote both the Fairtrade movement and Shetland.
Tom took nine days to cover the journey, ingeniously fitting in some broadcasting - he presents a weekday afternoon programme on BBC Radio Scotland - and a couple of evening shows along the way. Will others now follow in his tracks? If you've a mind to, you'll certainly want to read his blog, which records the highs and lows of the trip. A short film is now available that follows him on the last leg of the journey, beginning as he boards the NorthLink ferry in Aberdeen.
Ebooks Offered By The Shetland Library
Shetland Library has launched an ebook lending service to let customers download books through their computers. The eBooks use free Adobe software and are available through a link on the Library website. For Shetland Library members, there's no charge. They can be downloaded to a range of devices, including iPhones, iPads, Android devices and many eReaders, but not the Kindle, because it is an Amazon-linked product that doesn't allow Library loans.
Customers can borrow or request up to four books concurrently for a loan period of up to 21 days. All they need to log in is their borrower number and PIN. At the moment the service is aimed at customers who may already be using ebooks, but the Library plans to organise demonstration sessions and provide information for new users later this year.
'The service enhances the "24-hour Library" online services we offer,' said Library manager Karen Fraser. 'Our members can already consult a range of excellent reference books through our website, but now they also have the option to download novels to read. We carried out a survey earlier this year and there was a lot of interest in being able to borrow ebooks, so the Library is delighted to be able to keep up with the needs of readers.'
The range of books will be developed according to demand and it's hoped that e-audio books can be added this winter.
The new service has been made possible by a £10,000 grant from the Scottish Government Public Library Improvement Fund with assistance from the Scottish Library and Information Council.
Local Architects Win Praise For Housing Developments
Shetland's architectural practices have once again entered projects for the Inverness Architectural Association's Design Awards and, from five Shetland projects submitted, two have won awards in the Shetland and Orkney section.
Both winning schemes were designed by Lerwick firm, Richard Gibson Architects, and are social housing developments in Lerwick, known as Da Vadil and Grodians. Da Vadil was constructed on the site of a former factory, on the boundary between residential and dockland areas, with access from the rear rather than from the busy main road to the front. The houses are designed for a high level of privacy, despite their very prominent position. The development was entered in the 'New Buildings' category.
Grodians was entered in the 'Place-making' category and is located towards the south-western edge of the town. It features a 'homezone' street layout that reduces traffic speeds to a minimum, creating a safe place for families. The layout also produces a very sheltered environment, with close-set housing, high fences, tree planting and recessed house entrances. It's well-connected to local services and facilities. Grodians has impressed other judges, too: the development was a winner in the RIAS 2012 Awards, received a Special Mention in the RIAS 2012 Andrew Doolan 'Best Building in Scotland' award and was a regional finalist in the Civic Trust Awards.
These two winning projects will now automatically go forward to the Inverness Architectural Association's annual awards in Inverness.
Another firm, Scalloway-based Redman and Sutherland, was commended for two of its entries, a sensitively-designed house extension in Cullivoe on the island of Yell and an innovative design for a new low-carbon housing development in Lerwick.
More New Housing Developments Begin
Meanwhile, more new housing is on the way. Shetland's local housing association, in partnership with Shetland Islands Council, has just begun work on the construction of 63 new houses and flats at three sites in Shetland.
The scale of the schemes means that it's one of the biggest development programmes by a community-based housing association in Scotland. The Hjaltland Housing Association will make eleven of the 63 units available through a Scottish Government shared equity scheme that's designed to help first-time buyers onto the property ladder.
Visiting one of the sites at Strand, in Tingwall, Scottish Government Housing Minister, Keith Brown, said: 'The Scottish Government is investing over £3 million in Hjaltland Housing Association's latest development, bringing more good housing news for Shetland. The housing association and Shetland Islands Council are to be congratulated for working so positively and productively on this development'.
Mr Brown went on to emphasise that the provision of high quality, affordable homes was vital to ensure the prosperity of Shetland, retain population and sustain the local building trade and related businesses.
In Lerwick and the central mainland of Shetland, demand for rented property is strong, so the addition of the new houses to the stock will make a significant contribution.
Fiddle Frenzy Draws Students From Around The World
Fiddle Frenzy, Shetland Arts' week-long celebration of traditional Shetland fiddle music, has just begun and runs until Sunday 12 August.
It's a combined summer school and festival, rooted in the music and the musicians that have led Shetland to become one of the world's most highly acclaimed fiddle playing regions. The event is highly regarded by all fans of traditional music and attracts students from all over the world.
Fiddle classes during the week are led by some of Shetland's best known fiddlers, including Jenna and Bethany Reid and Ross Couper, who teach the traditional Shetland style by ear. In addition to fiddle, there are also classes in guitar accompaniment in the local style made famous by, in particular, the late 'Peerie' Willie Johnson. However, it's not all about music.
For non-musicians, or indeed musicians looking for a break, there are classes in that other Shetland tradition, knitting, and in drawing and painting. Afternoon tours allow participants to explore the islands' lifestyle and scenery. In the evenings, there are concerts and dances. Shetland Arts say that they're determined to offer a truly unique Shetland cultural experience.
Well-Known Writers To Appear At Book Festival
Shetland Arts say they're 'delighted' with the line-up of guests for Shetland's annual book festival, Wordplay, which runs this year from 31 August to 9 September.
Those who'll be visiting for the festival include Val McDermid, Sally Magnusson, Norman Stone, Ron Pretty, Angus Reid, John Burnside, Rodge Glass, Luke Jennings, Karin Altenberg and Robin Robertson. Local writer Jim Mainland and Shetland-born poet Christine de Luca also feature in the programme.
Val McDermid was an award winning journalist for sixteen years. Her many novels include Wire in the Blood, The Distant Echo, and the newly released, Vanishing Point. Her many awards include one for The Torment of Others, which was Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year in 2007.
Sally Magnusson is well known as a journalist and broadcaster who works on both radio and television. She has written numerous books, includingLife of Pee, The Flying Scotsman: a Biography of Eric Liddell, Dreaming of Iceland: The Lure of a Family Legend and Horace the Haggis.
Norman Stone is an award-winning writer, director and producer for film and television whose work includes Shadowlands, Ain't Misbehavin' , Florence Nightingale and the BAFTA-nominated, Scotland's Brand New Bank. As the illustrator for Sally Magnusson's Horace the Haggis, he'll take audiences into the amazing world of Horace with readings, on-the-spot drawings and even some animation.
The festival will feature an excellent variety of events including writing workshops, author events, book launches and children's treats, including a visit from Scottish Opera with 'A Little Bit of Northern Light' for 4 - 9 year olds. More information about all those appearing at the festival will be available in the WordPlay programme when it appears on the Shetland Arts website.
Miranda Richardson and Bill Forsyth Among ScreenPlay Guests
Meanwhile, guests at for ScreenPlay, Shetland's film festival -which runs in parallel with WordPlay - are set to include actor Miranda Richardson and directors Bill Forsyth and Alexandre O.Philippe.
Miranda Richardson has had a distinguished career in theatre, film and television, winning an Olivier award, two Golden Globes, a BAFTA and two Oscar nominations. Her first film was Dance With a Stranger (1985), Mike Newell's biography of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom. She went on to star in Spielberg's Empire of the Sun (1987), Altman's Kansas City (1996), Cronenberg's Spider (2002), as Barbara Castle in Made in Dagenham and as Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), among a host of other roles. Her television work has ranged from Absolutely Fabulous to Blackadder and Gideon's Daughter.
Bill Forsyth had a string of directorial successes in the 1980s. His first film was That Sinking Feeling (1980) but he is probably best known for his second, Gregory's Girl (1981), which won a BAFTA for Best Screenplay. His other major credits include Local Hero (1983) and Comfort and Joy (1984).
Alexandre O. Phillipe is a director, producer and writer, whose recent work includes his documentary on Star Wars director George Lucas, The People vs George Lucas, which - along with his The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus - will be shown at the festival.
ScreenPlay will also feature some Scandinavian noir - on a theme of 'It's Dark Up North' - and some great documentaries including Nostalgia for the Light and You've Been Trumped. It looks like a great programme.
Tickets for both WordPlay and ScreenPlay will go on sale in August through the Shetland Box Office.
Blues Fans Look Forward To Great Festival Line-Up
The Shetland Blues Festival, running from 14 to 16 September, offers as wide a spectrum of blues music as ever from visiting and local bands.
The Jon Amor Blues Group draws inspiration from the greats of the past, such as Muddy Waters, and from contemporary bands like Black Keys, producing a powerful, uncompromising sound. Anglo-Norwegian Krissy Matthews has packed a lot of blues-playing into his 20 years, having already released four CDs and played with, among others, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers.
From Malvern comes Babajack, an acoustic blues/roots/fusion band with a rhythmic, percussive sound. Formed in 2008, Jed Potts & the Hillman Hunters recall classic 50s and 60s American blues. Tim Lothar, a guitarist based in Denmark, has had rave reviews and several Danish awards for his work. Lincoln Durham ranges through blues and bluegrass on an astonishing variety of instruments and he has a great voice, too. Papa Mojo are four guys with a lifelong love for down home blues. They've been together since 1966 and their mix of roots, Delta and Hill Country Blues never fails to captivate audiences.
Among the Shetland bands are Muddy Bay and the Deep Sea Rollers, No Sweat, Mackie and friends, Sore Finger and Bluemelt and the Orange Whips. Full programme details are available on the Shetland Blues Festival website.
Wool Week Dates Announced
Looking even farther ahead, it's been announced that this year's Shetland Wool Week will run from Monday 8 October until Sunday 14 October. The event reflects the importance of wool in Shetland's history, heritage and economy. It offers a great range of talks, workshops and tours that will anyone with an interest in knitting and textiles, from the traditional to the contemporary, will find hard to resist. With the islands' international reputation for excellence in knitwear and fine lace, there's no better place to immerse yourself in everything woolly.
You can find full details of the programme on the website, www.shetlandwoolweek.com. Among the events will be a session from the festival's patron, Kate Davies, who is a leading designer and writes extensively on textiles, offering a regular and widely-read blog. She'll be talking about how to be a designer and publish patterns. Another writer, Susan Crawford, who is currently working on a textiles book tentatively entitled Vintage Shetland, will also run a session based around her research. For the first time, there will be a makers' market too, where local people will demonstrate their skills and sell their work.
Viking Cultural Route Gains Council Of Europe Accreditation
A new 'cultural route' that includes Shetland has been recognised by the Council of Europe.
The Viking Cultural Route is a cross border collection of sites, stories and heritage relating to the shared Viking legacy of Europe and beyond. The Viking age dates from around 800AD - 1050AD. Over those 250 years, the Vikings developed unrivalled boat building, navigational and seamanship skills, allowing them to travel widely through Northern and Western Europe, the North Atlantic, into the Mediterranean and deep into the rivers of Russia and the Ukraine. Indeed, the Vikings could be described as the first global tourists, since they were the first people to visit four continents.
The route will be managed by the Destination Viking Association (DVA), which has been working for over three years on this initiative. The DVA was formed in 2007 and currently consists of fifteen members from nine jurisdictions, namely Sweden, Norway, Finland, UK, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Greenland. The Association wants to develop a strong Viking brand for tourism, and to sponsor co-operation between Viki