December 2014 Move Shetland Newsletter

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

Where has 2014 gone? In Shetland, certainly, it seems to have flown by. We'll remember, especially, the achievements of island athletes in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, but a number of other awards came Shetland's way. We saw tidal power become a reality and steady progress on a number of other projects. In the world of arts and crafts, new talent made its mark in galleries and fairs. There was music in abundance and a terrific selection of films to see. The weather was kind for most of the summer, too, and it has continued to be mild; indeed, a couple of my fuschia bushes have just come into leaf, which they may regret when winter eventually arrives!

In November, we enjoyed the largest-ever craft and food fair, which saw the launch of a great new book about Shetland food, more about which below. We've seen the first year-round air service to Norway take off. Shetland folk were, as always, spectacularly generous in their support of BBC Children in Need, thanks to the efforts of a host of local fund-raisers and the waves of local musicians – and BBC Shetland staff and helpers – who kept us entertained that night.

One of my favourite outings was to an exhibition by Anne Bain and Mike Finnie at the Shetland Museum and Archives, featuring collaborative work they did during a stay in Bohuslän, Sweden. Most of it was in the form of framed, three-dimensional constructions; all of it used materials found, printed or painted there, capturing brilliantly the character of the local environment and making for an unusual, beguiling show.

Now, though, we look forward to Christmas and a New Year and, just beyond that, the start of the season of fire festivals. If you're thinking about a winter visit that takes in one of these, now is the time to get organised and there's more information about the Lerwick Up Helly Aa – and the rural ones – here. But Shetland had some other interesting traditions around Yule and you can read about them in my account of Shetland Christmas Past.

Whatever you're doing over the festive season and wherever you will be, all of us at Promote Shetland send our very warmest good wishes.

Twelve Projects Win Environmental Awards

A dozen projects have been recognised in the annual Shetland Environmental Awards, which acknowledge sustainability, innovation and best practice.

The awards always attract a wide range of nominations. This year, half of the awards went to schools and their communities for a range of ecological or interpretive work. The others involved initiatives as diverse as a tannery, gardens, a new caravan and camping site, the restoration of Sumburgh Lighthouse and the sustainable sourcing of fish.

Brian Gregson, Chairman of Shetland Amenity Trust and the Shetland Environment Group, which judges the awards, congratulated all the winners for what they had achieved. He said: “The awards have always been truly inclusive, attracting nominations for a wide variety of projects from all sectors of the community and this year is no exception. The twelve winning projects range from small initiatives, achieved on a shoestring, to a project which has raised millions of pounds.”

Mr Iain Gulland, Director of Zero Waste Scotland, presented the winning projects with their awards. He said: “I was delighted to attend and present the Shetland Environment Awards 2014. The winning projects were inspiring and demonstrated action across the whole community, from schools and local businesses to the older generation. As ever, I think we can all learn something from what happens in our island communities when it comes to understanding how taking action locally can contribute to a better future globally.”

The 2014 awards plaques were made by Cunningsburgh-based Enviroglass using 80% recycled glass. Sponsorship of the awards came from a range of national and local agencies and voluntary organisations and the oil company, Total.

The schools that won awards were Aith Junior High, Bressay Primary, Foula Primary School and Community, Nesting Primary, Ollaberry Primary and Sound Primary. The other awards went to Brucehall Extra Care Community Garden, Burravoe Pier Trust, Frankie's Fish & Chips, Highlands Garden, Shetland Tannery Ltd and Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre & Nature Reserve.

New Norwegian Air Link Established

Shetland's long-established links with Norway have been reinforced by the announcement of a new air service that will operate all year round.

Shetland's relationship with Norway goes back to the days of Viking conquest in the ninth century AD and the islands were under Norse rule for around 600 years. During the Second World War, Shetland played a vital role in supporting the Norwegian resistance through the darkest days of Nazi occupation, when small Norwegian fishing boats took huge risks in maintaining a clandestine supply route and evacuating refugees. More recently, the Queen of Norway has paid visits to Shetland, opening the Shetland Museum and Archives and catching up with friends in the islands.

There's always been a mutual interest in maintaining transport links and, for several years, the Faroe-based Smyril Line operated a summer car ferry service between Lerwick and Bergen. Flybe continues to run summer services between Sumburgh Airport and Bergen and it has now been joined by Bergen Air Transport, which intends to run a twice-weekly service all year round, with a return trip from Bergen to Sumburgh on Monday and Thursday mornings. Return fares from Shetland start at £190. The flight time is 70 minutes.

The new service makes it possible for Shetland residents to enjoy a long weekend in west Norway, or perhaps take a longer trip, such as the spectacular seven-hour train journey to Oslo, which costs from just £47 return. In December, Bergen offers what's said to be the world's largest gingerbread town and early next year, temptations include evenings with Joan Armatrading, Simple Minds or a choice of several concerts by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.

Clickimin Centre Packed For Food and Craft Fairs

Over a weekend in mid-November, thousands made their way to the Food Fair and Craft Fair, both much larger than in previous years.

Craft and food events have been held for several years but, for 2014, they were both hugely expanded. The Christmas Craft Fair boasted 88 craft stands, occupying both the main hall and the bowls hall at Lerwick's Clickimin Centre. The Food Fair used the large function room for a food theatre, a food court and several stalls, but many more exhibitors were accommodated in the squash courts and even the corridors.

The crafts on show included a huge variety of textiles, ranging from traditional knitwear through weaving and felt-work to innovative designs in a wide range of fabrics. Jewellery and accessories were very well represented too, with some particularly beautiful work using silver, gold, glass and ceramics; there was a great choice of scarves and bags, too. That was by no means all: there was a wealth of pottery, leatherwork, sheepskin crafts, candles and furniture. Local artists and photographers showed some beautiful work.

Food producers were also more numerous than ever before; succulent mussels were very much in evidence and there was a great choice of Shetland lamb and beef. Local cheese – a relatively recent arrival on the Shetland food scene – was clearly going down well. One stand featured a new range of locally-made German baking, including classic stollen and some beautiful cakes; nearby, the new Shetland deli range was also popular. The islands" two breweries and the new distillery, presently producing gin, were also represented.

For the first time for several years, the Food Fair included a food theatre where, throughout the weekend, local chefs brought their passion for Shetland food to packed audiences; there were delicious samples, too. The Shetland Food Champion Awards also caught visitors" imagination. The overall winner – from more than 60 nominees – was Scoop Wholefoods, a shop packed with cooks" delights from organic native Shetland lamb to sushi-rolling mats. You can read more about the event, with more pictures and details of the awards, on this blog.

Shetland's craft and food producers are more numerous, and offer a wider range, than ever before. A number of them have set up successful businesses following a move to the islands. The Shetland public has responded, understanding the benefits of buying local and realising that the quality of what's on offer is superb.

Book Celebrates Shetland Food and Cooking

A new book, Shetland Food and Cooking, is sure to find a place on worktops in the islands and beyond.

Shetland booksellers" shelves are crammed with volumes about the history, archaeology, environment, wildlife and people of Shetland, and there's a remarkably wide range of fiction and poetry, too. Books about food have been rarer. In 1925, Margaret Stout's Cookery For Northern Wives – now available as a facsimile reprint – was a landmark, a selection of recipes that were part contemporary and part recovered from earlier times. Since then, Shetland cooking has had a place in other authors" work, such as Alan Davidson's classic, North Atlantic Seafood (1979); and of course a Shetland student, James Morton, has made his mark as finalist in the BBC's Great British Bake-Off and subsequently published Brilliant Bread (2013). However, the book that local cooks have most often turned to is probably In Da Galley, an accessible and inspiring guide by another local writer, Charlie Simpson.

There are obvious parallels between Marian Armitage's new book and Margaret Stout's 1925 collection. Both women studied cookery in Edinburgh; both cooked in London before returning to Shetland; and both books offer a wide range of recipes that make the best of Shetland's food resources.

But Marian's volume is in every sense a book for a new century. Her perspective is that of someone who, teaching in London, was exposed to

“...the vibrant and exotic foods of my students" diverse backgrounds: the street markets; the spicy aromas and colour of Southall with chapattis and curries made on pavement stalls, the Jewish 24-hour bagel bakery in Brick Lane, the Turkish food shops near the old Arsenal, and the foodie specialists in Borough market...”

That experience of rich diversity only serves to underpin her confidence in promoting all that's distinctive about the Shetland larder. She successfully celebrates the people who “grow, rear, catch and sell; the traditions and historical influences as well as newer trends” which include initiatives such as Helen Nisbet's Shetland Nights in London.

This is very much more than a recipe book; in its 264 beautifully-illustrated pages, there's a wealth of background knowledge about every aspect of food in Shetland, past and present. There are short historical vignettes about people, businesses and the trade in food.

The hundred or so recipes draw on all of Marian's vast knowledge and experience and make great use of Shetland's produce. Unsurprisingly, fish is to the fore, whether in the traditional Krappin and Stap or Monkfish with Chermoula. Lamb, mutton, beef, pork, rabbit, goat and goose all feature and sassermaet (a kind of Shetland spiced sausagemeat) also gets a well-deserved place in the spotlight. For something sweeter, there is no shortage of the kind of cakes and bakes that are the foundation of Shetland's celebrated Sunday teas and, among the puddings, the Clafoutis – using prunes in this case – looks especially tempting. Then there's rhubarb, that abundant Shetland crop that stimulated Mary Prior to write her engaging Rhubarbaria; it turns up in a wonderful variety of guises.

Shetland Food and Cooking is a great addition to any kitchen bookshelf; it's published by the Shetland Times at £20.

District of the Month: Sandwick

Every district in Shetland has its particular appeal and, each month, we look at what each part of our islands can offer for new residents. This month, we visit Sandwick, which lies in Shetland's south Mainland, about 15 miles south of Lerwick and about 10 miles north of Sumburgh, the islands" main airport.

The district of Sandwick occupies a rolling landscape with the North Sea to the east and the Clift Hills to the west. The coastline is mostly formed of low cliffs but there are beaches, too, with the gently-shelving sands at Cumlewick a particular favourite in summer.

As well as the hamlet of Sandwick itself, there are several other small settlements. To the north-east, Leebitton – where Cornish miners once worked a small copper deposit – is the base for the summer passenger ferry that takes visitors to the island of Mousa and its Iron Age broch, the best preserved anywhere. To the south-west, Hoswick is known for modern and traditional knitwear and textiles and there's a visitor centre, too. Most of the district's shops and services are clustered in the central part of the district.

Sandwick is home to around 950 people. They enjoy a good range of local facilities, including local shops, a bakery, a garage, a swimming pool and a very well-supported social club. The school currently caters for nursery, primary and junior secondary pupils and there are two community halls, one of which – thanks to a massive community effort – has just won nearly £50,000 from the People's Lottery for a new kitchen. The nearest health centre is at Levenwick, about three miles to the south, where there's also a particularly fine beach.

Employment in Sandwick itself is mainly in agriculture, the knitwear businesses or local services, but many residents commute to work elsewhere in Shetland, perhaps in Lerwick or at Sumburgh Airport. The roads are excellent and there's a good bus service, too.

Summing up, Sandwick has good local facilities, with those in Lerwick just a short drive away. The coastal setting, with wonderful sea views and spectacular sunrises, is very appealing. Perhaps best of all, though, it's a welcoming and active community that picked up a Scottish "community of the year" award not so long ago.

Jobs of the Month

Jobs on offer at NHS Shetland include a specialist in Biochemistry; a Biomedical Scientist – Blood Sciences; and a locum doctor's post in general surgery.

Vacancies with Shetland Islands Council include posts for teachers of English and Music; a Building Maintenance Officer; and a Maintenance Supervisor.

It's also a good idea to check the job sections of the Shetland Times and Shetland News.

Blog of the Month

With Christmas coming - and that new book on Shetland food and cooking hitting the shelves - now seems like a good time to browse the Taste of Shetland blog, which comes complete with a gift guide.

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