August 2014 Move Shetland Newsletter

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Hi, I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to the August 2014 issue of our monthly newsletter.

Well, it's been an eventful month in Shetland. As well as all the usual summer diversions, such as sailing, kayaking, fishing, walking, enjoying Sunday afternoon teas in local halls and (in my case) a great deal of work in the garden, we've had some exceptional musical evenings. During the month there were concerts featuring Eddi Reader, The Levellers, Declan O'Rourke, and – in a Shetland version of the "transatlantic sessions" – performances by a host of very talented local musicians. Another highlight for me was a performance of David Hare's play, Skylight, featuring great performances by Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan, which had been recorded by National Theatre Live at Wyndham's Theatre in London and was shown in Lerwick's Mareel.

In common with the rest of the country, Shetland folk have been following events at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and, in particular, the successes of three local contestants: more about that elsewhere in this newsletter. There's been international sport on the doorstep, too, with the European Fireball Sailing Championships taking place in Lerwick Harbour.

As usual, many visitors have made their way to Shetland during the summer. They've enjoyed some fine, warm weather, with temperatures reaching the low twenties and ranging rather higher in sheltered spots. There's been very little rain. Visitors often come to see Shetland's wonderful seabird colonies and there's been good news this year, with many reports of better food supplies offshore. Also very noticeable has been an increased number of Arctic Terns (known locally as Tirricks). They've returned to nesting sites, including one just a mile or so from my house, which hadn't been used for some years. On the other hand, there seem to have been fewer sightings of Orcas (Killer Whales), but recent encounters around the island of Unst may mean that they're simply a little later in showing up this year.

At the beginning of August, our South Mainland Young Fiddlers travelled all the way to Sidmouth in Devon to take part in the town's Folk Week, which is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary. A little farther ahead, no fewer than forty Shetland fiddlers will be taking part in the annual Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Closer to home, but still involving fiddles, there's the annual Fiddle Frenzy, running this week and offering fiddle tuition and performances; almost 100 people have enrolled in the classes and they've come from Scotland, England, Wales, the US, Canada, Germany, Spain and Australia.

Shetland Commonwealth Games Star Is Just 13

Shetland Commonwealth Games Star Is Just 13

Erraid Davies, who won a bronze medal in the swimming competitions at Glasgow's Commonwealth Games, is the youngest-ever Scottish medallist.

Erraid, who trains in Shetland using the pools at Brae, in the north mainland, and the 25m pool in Lerwick, was competing in the 100 metres race for women's para-sport category SB9. She had improved on her personal best time in the heat before the final, and then did so again in the final. On the first leg of the race, she fell a little behind but, as she told the BBC's Sharron Davies, she "hammered it" in the closing stages. Olympic medallist, Rebecca Adlington, forecast that she is "going to be a star", and indeed the BBC reported that her name had been trending world-wide on Twitter in the minutes after the race. Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, tweeted his congratulations and her home team in Shetland, the Delting Dolphins are said to be "overjoyed". She now plans to compete in events in Sheffield and Manchester.

Erraid wasn't the only Shetland swimmer in the Commonwealth Games. Andrea Strachan – more than eight years her senior – made it into the final of her competition, the 50 metre breaststroke. Andrea has picked up medals in British and German competitions but on this occasion didn't gain a podium place.

Meanwhile, one of Shetland's table-tennis players, Lynda Flaws, also did well. Lynda, who is studying Physiology and Sports Science at Glasgow University, had a particularly convincing win over her Guyanan opponent.

There's little doubt that the superb sports facilities in Shetland, backed by excellent coaching, have greatly helped Shetland's young athletes gain the skills, experience and confidence needed to compete in world-class competitions. The islands" network of nine state-of-the-art swimming pools and sports centres is superior to the facilities found in many much larger communities.

We congratulate all the Shetland athletes on their success.

Unusual Property Is 'Not For The Faint-Hearted'

There's usually a good range of property for sale in Shetland, but one home that's recently been put on the market will appeal to those with a sense of adventure.

"Jackville" is a Category B Listed Building and was built in 1834 for a Captain Jack and his wife. It stands in 54 acres of land at the southern tip of Strom Ness, a peninsula on Shetland's west mainland. Although it's only about twelve miles from Lerwick, access is, as the selling solicitor explains, "not for the faint hearted, although that is part of its appeal". There is no road to the house, and although it's possible to reach the nearest main road by walking northwards for about two hours, it takes just five minutes to reach the opposite shore by small boat.

The house has been little used in recent years and needs extensive renovation. However, it comes with lots of land, a walled garden, a large outbuilding, a boat house and its own pier. There are three double bedrooms, together with living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, scullery, store-room and porch. There's mains water and a telephone connection but electricity would need to be provided by a small wind turbine or some other means. A new septic tank will be needed, too.

It could well be an idyllic home for someone; offers over £150,000 are invited.

Property in Shetland (as in most of Scotland outside the major cities) is invariably sold by firms of solicitors and there are several in Shetland, namely Anderson and Goodlad, Dowle, Smith and Rutherford; Neil Risk; Tait and Peterson; Michael Inkster; and Inkster's. Most property advertisements invite offers over a particular price, although fixed prices are occasionally specified. Prices are generally highest in and around Lerwick, declining gradually towards remoter parts of the islands; overall, though, the price of building land and houses is substantially lower than in many parts of the UK.

Norwegian Queen and British Prime Minister Visit

July saw surprise visits to Shetland by the Queen of Norway and Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron.

The Queen of Norway dropped in for a private visit when her royal yacht called en route from Norway to Faroe. She spent time in Scalloway, which has strong Norwegian links because of the wartime Shetland Bus operation that supported the Norwegian resistance, mostly using small Norwegian fishing vessels. There, and elsewhere, she mingled incognito with other visitors. Her last trip to Shetland was at the end of May 2007, when she opened the new Shetland Museum and Archives with the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, as Prince Charles and Camilla are known when in Scotland.

It's much longer – thirty-four years, in fact – since a British Prime Minister paid a visit to the islands; Margaret Thatcher was in Shetland in 1980. David Cameron's visit was spread over two days and he visited a variety of sites around the islands, including the Coastguard rescue helicopter base at Sumburgh Airport and the recently refurbished lighthouse on nearby Sumburgh Head. He also had talks with fishermen and met local food producers, sampling their products.

Artists To Benefit From Continued Award Scheme

A scheme that offers financial support to Shetland-based visual and craft artists is to be continued for a further year.

Over the past six years, the scheme has awarded £88,000 to Shetland based visual and craft artists, at all stages of their creative careers. The Award scheme supports Shetland artists and makers in their creative, professional and economic development.

Vivian Ross-Smith graduated from Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen last year and has returned home to Shetland to focus on her artwork, feeling that "there is a good art scene in Shetland". Vivian was successful in applying for a Visual Art and Craft Award in 2013, which contributed towards her costs in creating work for an exhibition shown at Da Gadderie at Shetland Museum and Archives, in February of this year. This was her first major show since her degree show.

She said: “Without the Visual Art and Craft Award, I would not have been able to spend the research time or afford the materials and tools to create a new body of work. Art materials are expensive, and when you leave art school, you lose all the facilities you've had access to during your degree. It was great to get the Award from Shetland Arts which enabled me to buy equipment and materials that have continued beyond the period of my Award and will contribute towards my practice in the future.”

Some of the work created through the Award scheme is being showcased in the Lower Gallery café area at Bonhoga from 26 July – 7 September through a celebratory exhibition of work created by 15 recipients, including Vivian Ross-Smith, of a Visual Art and Craft Award, or of the previous Award schemes, the Working-Up Award and the Visual Artist Award from 2008 to 2014. As is evident in the exhibition, a huge variety of work and media is supported, underlining the creativity that abounds in Shetland.

Clair Aldington, Visual Arts Development Officer for Shetland Arts, who co-ordinates the Visual Art and Craft Award scheme said: “The Visual Art and Craft Award scheme is invaluable in the support and developmental opportunities it offers to Shetland's many talented artists and makers. We have seen that, even small amounts of money can make a huge difference in an artist's or maker's practice and, in some cases, has led to an artist making permanent changes in their working life in order to spend more time concentrating on their creative work and trying to make more of a living from it. The creative industries are one of the fastest growing sectors in the Scottish economy and this scheme further enables that growth. We are grateful to our co-funders, Creative Scotland and Shetland Islands Council, who make this Award scheme possible in Shetland.”

Exhibition Celebrates Gallery's First Twenty Years

A new exhibition at Bonhoga Gallery is a celebration of both the twentieth anniversary of the gallery and the history of its home, the Weisdale Mill.

Since its construction in the 1850s, the building has gone from meal and barley mill, to butchery and tannery, to art gallery, shop and café. Since 1994, it has been welcoming large numbers of Shetland residents and visitors to the isles with a year-round exhibition programme of contemporary visual art and craft. Bonhoga means "my spiritual home" in Shetland dialect.

In celebration of the anniversary, Shetland Arts has curated an exhibition by twenty artists, one selected from each year of the gallery's exhibition programme from 1994 - 2014. The exhibits reflect the range of work from local, national and international artists who have been connected to the gallery over the past twenty years.

Each artist was commissioned to create a new work, using as a starting point an object relating to the gallery's history, location or physicality. These items have been chosen by the curators with each of the artists" work in mind, with the aim of creating a body of new work to reflect the Mill's history and celebrate its features.

Jane Matthews, Exhibitions Officer and co-curator of the exhibition explains: “Each of the 20 artists has responded to the object they were given in a completely different way, and it's fascinating to see what they have come up with and why.”

The exhibition runs until 7 September, concurrent with work in the lower gallery by recipients of the Shetland Visual Art and Craft Award

Jobs of the Month

Jobs on offer at NHS Shetland include posts for Staff Nurses and a Maintenance Manager.

Vacancies with Shetland Islands Council include posts for an Electrical Engineer and an Engineer for the ferry service.

It's also a good idea to check the job sections of the Shetland Times and Shetland News. Many other jobs are available in the islands at the moment: for example, Shetland Arts is looking for a General Manager and an Artistic Director.

Blog of the Month

For our blog this month, we're in the heart of Shetland's capital, Lerwick, where Diane and Liam look after the Jubilee Flower Park. As you'll see from the photos they've posted, it's a colourful place at this time of year and, for the first time, it's to be the venue for an afternoon of music and merriment on a Sunday afternoon, on 17 August.

Members of the public are being encouraged to drop by to enjoy the gardens, partake of some afternoon teas, and perhaps play a game of bowls or draughts. There are children's activities on offer, and some splendid music from the Lerwick Brass Band, the South Mainland Young Fiddlers, Arthur Nicolson, and Bryan Gear and Violet Tulloch.

Shetland Islands Council's Dale Smith said: "The gardens are looking particularly good with the fine summer we've had, and this is a splendid chance for folk to drop by and spend an afternoon just enjoying the flowers while listening to some great music. We've got our fingers crossed for the weather, but I'm sure a fine afternoon will be had by all in any case."

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