February 2012 Newsletter
Hello! I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to the February edition of our newsletter.
Light is a bit of a theme in Shetland at this time of year. To begin with, there's the rapidly-increasing amount of daylight, as much as five and a half minutes every day. At the winter solstice on 21 December, Shetland has about two hours' less daylight than London, but in summer the opposite is true. At midsummer, when there are nearly 19 hours of sunshine and no proper darkness, the sun simply dips out of sight for a few hours. We enjoy a kind of unfinished sunset until it rises again, well before 3am. All of that means that we really notice the pace at which days lengthen.
Torchlight is also very much on our minds, for - as our pictures show - we're now properly into the fire festival season. We've already had three - the Scalloway Fire Festival on 13 January, the Lerwick Up Helly Aa on 31 January and Nesting on 3 February. There are seven more to come; Uyeasound, Unst on 10 February; Northmavine on 17 February; Bressay and Cullivoe, Yell, both on 24 February; Norwick, Unst on 25 February; the South Mainland on 9 March; and finally Brae on 16 March.
My photos from this year's Lerwick event show the lighting of the torches - always a dramatic moment - followed by the procession, the burning of the galley and a moment in one of the 11 halls that were open for parties, which run until 8am the following day. At these, the 47 squads of guizers (men in disguise) take it in turn to perform some kind of comedy sketch or song-and-dance routine. There is dancing and a copious supply of food, always including soup made with reestit (salted and air-dried) mutton. The event always takes place on the last Tuesday in January and the Wednesday is a public holiday in Lerwick.
If you feel that a winter or early spring trip to Shetland could help you decide whether to make the move here - and we do recommend that - why not tie it into one of these events? You'll be left in no doubt of the community spirit that lies behind them and you'll certainly feel welcome.
Lastly, on the theme of light, there's the aurora borealis, or northern lights, caused by electromagnetic disturbances in the upper atmosphere. Shetland is the best place to see it in Britain and, although sightings are never guaranteed, we did have a particularly good display on 22 January. I took a few photographs that night and here's one of them. You can read more in an article I've written for the Visit.Shetland website.
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 2012 visitor 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!
New Online Magazine Joins Excellent Range Of Shetland Periodicals
For a community of just 22,000 people, Shetland supports a surprisingly strong publishing industry and the local booklist is a long one. Meanwhile, the three existing local periodicals have just been joined by a fourth.
Longest-established among our magazines is the New Shetlander, a quarterly that, since 1947, has appeared in Voar (Spring), Simmer (Summer), Hairst (Autumn) and Yule (Winter). In fact, it's the oldest literary magazine of its kind in Scotland. Published on a not-for-profit basis by Voluntary Action Shetland, it has been edited down the years by some of Shetland's most distinguished authors. The magazine offers a range of Shetland writing, focusing on the islands' culture, history and politics, and always with a generous selection of the work of local poets.
Shetland Life, a monthly magazine, first appeared in 1980. Successive editors have subtly shifted the magazine's focus according to their own preferences. However, it has always carried a mixture of articles about local life, with a blend of history, biography and lighter reading, at some periods also including a children's section. There have also been various regular columns including one on food and various opinion pieces. Tom Morton, a BBC Scotland presenter who lives in Shetland, has recently taken over the editorial chair from Malachy Tallack.
More recently, ii Shetland appeared on the news-stands. It's a large-format, glossy magazine published monthly at the instigation of a well-known local photographer, Malcolm Younger. Not surprisingly, then, ii Shetland is very much led by pictures. It includes several well-illustrated feature articles, displays the portfolios of a range of local photographers and usually contains a good selection of wedding and family photographs.
The newcomer, our fourth magazine, is 60 North, published on line by Promote Shetland. It offers another perspective on Shetland and will be of interest to visitors and people who may be interested in moving to Shetland, as well as islanders. The Spring 2012 edition is packed with features ranging from wildlife to yachting, drystane dyking to food and Shetland music to geology. There's an enjoyable account of a trip to the small island of Foula and an insight into the world of a young pony breeder.
Alongside these, Shetland readers also enjoy two local newspapers. The Shetland Times appears both in print, every Friday, and online. The Shetland News was one of the first online newspapers in Britain. Both offer comprehensive coverage of local news and have a tradition of offering thoughtful opinion - and lively letters columns - as well as hard news.
Islanders can also tune in to BBC Radio Shetland, which provides up to 90 minutes of news and features every evening, or to SIBC, a locally owned independent station which carries news and music round the clock.
All of these media offer, in their very different ways, unique insights into island life and the older newspapers and magazines, along with the BBC's archives, are also vital sources for historical research. They help us trace how Shetland and Shetland ideas have evolved.
Shetland Economy Defies Recession
The Shetland economy did better during 2011 than that of any other part of Scotland. Provisional figures suggest that it grew by about 2%, according to an Inverness-based economist who has been tracking the nation's fortunes for many years. That's roughly double the Scottish rate.
Tony Mackay of Mackay Consultants attributes the strong growth to the oil industry, which had a good year. In Shetland, a new gas terminal is being built alongside the existing oil terminal at Sullom Voe and it has created further job opportunities in an economy that was already among the most active in Britain. Not surprisingly, unemployment in the islands is the lowest in Scotland, at just 1.3%; however, it has seldom risen much above 2% over recent decades.
It would be wrong, though, to attribute economic success entirely to the direct impact of the oil industry, which is very far from being Shetland's largest employer. The food sector, which includes a large fishing industry, has a very large turnover. Some parts of it - notably mussel farming - have expanded rapidly and there is steady innovation, for example in the two cheese-making businesses set up in recent years. The public sector, particularly the Islands Council and the NHS, also accounts for many jobs. In areas such as construction, public and private investment has continued to create employment, helping to fuel demand for local products and services and thereby contributing to that very healthy employment position. Small businesses have made a substantial contribution, too.
For much of its history, Shetland had something of a rollercoaster economy, influenced particularly by fluctuations in the fishing industry. Beginning in the late 1960s, however, the outlook has been much more settled than previous generations of Shetlanders might have imagined possible.
New App For Runners Includes Shetland Race
Running enthusiasts with an iPhone or iPad can now download an application that gives details of 500 races around the world, including the 'Simmer Dim' (summer twilight) Shetland Half Marathon. The app is based on a book, World's Ultimate Running Races, by Scottish runner Angela Mudge, published by Harper Collins.
The Shetland race is one of 16 Scottish events featured; you can also use it as a guide to running on the Great Wall of China, across the Sahara desert or up Mount Olympus or the Empire State Building.
The app allows you to search races in 100 countries, providing all the maps, photos and statistics you might want. It also incorporates all the usual features you'd expect, such as links to Facebook and Twitter.
The half-marathon (13.1 miles) starts in Cunningsburgh, a scattered village about ten miles south of the island capital, Lerwick, where the race ends. It's run to UK Athletics rules and there are four individual categories: senior men and women and veteran men and women, along with a team event. All entrants must be over 18 years of age and everyone receives a medal. Many people cheer the runners on along the route, particularly at the finish at Lerwick's Clickimin Centre, a large and very well-equipped sport and leisure complex.
The 2012 race is on 24 June and if you'd like more information, you can email Paul Woods.
Shetland Child Protection Works Well
A report on an inter-agency inspection on the protection of children and young people in Shetland has shown that local arrangements are working well. The inspectors found that very prompt and effective action was taken by staff to help keep children safe. They also praised the effective communication with children and families, which helped to build trusting relationships.
As is normal, some areas for further work were identified and all the agencies have already drawn up an improvement plan to ensure that the service continues to improve.
The full report is available from the Care Inspectorate website
"Warm And Caring" After School Club Wins Praise
The Islesburgh Out of School Club has received an excellent inspection report from Scotland's Care Inspectorate. The service has been awarded a "Very Good - Grade 5" for both "Quality of Care and Support" and the "Quality of Staffing".
These grades were based on an unannounced inspection over two days at the end of last year. The inspector visited both the morning Breakfast Club and the afternoon session where children are able to take part in activities after school.
The inspection report praises staff for creating a "warm and caring atmosphere for the children after their school day" and states that the service is "very good at involving the children in choosing activities and planning outings".
Out of School Club Manager, Carrie-Ann Bannister, is delighted with the inspection results. She said:
"It's great that the inspection report reflects the positive comments that we have received from parents throughout the year. We have a very good staff team at the club who work well together and the children certainly seem to enjoy their time here".
The Islesburgh Out of School Club provides after school activities for up to 42 children aged from four and a half to 14 years. The service runs a Breakfast Club between 8am and 9am during the week and an afternoon session from 3pm until 6pm during term time. The club is also open from 8am until 6pm during the school holidays, in-service days and occasional holidays.
Table Tennis Boosted By Coach's Visit
The sport of table tennis had a boost recently with a visit to Shetland by Paul Jackson, Director of Coaching for Table Tennis Scotland. Mr Jackson was in Shetland to provide a training course for new table tennis coaches and a coaching session with youngsters from the South Mainland.
Daniel Mainland from Shetland Junior Table Tennis Association said, "The association has gained a tremendous amount from Paul over the weekend. It has been great to see someone as high profile as Paul being in the isles conducting a course that will no doubt improve table tennis for years to come. We have established a relationship that will flourish as we increase the quality of table tennis within the isles at Shetland, national and international level."
Emily Nominated For Top Young Politician Award
Shetland's Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP), Emily Shaw, has been nominated for The Scottish Variety Awards Best Up and Coming Scottish Politician of the Year 2012, alongside four other MSYPs from throughout Scotland. Elected as MSYP for Shetland in March 2011, Emily has represented the isles' young folk at a local and national level.
She continues to represent the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) and the young people of Scotland on the Commission for Rural Education. The Commission, chaired by Sheriff David Sutherland, is examining how rural education connects with rural communities and how it can maximise the attainment and life chances of young people.
Mike Russell, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, nominated Emily. He said:
"She is an exceptional representative of young people, of rural Scotland and, most recently, she has proven to be a strong voice on the Commission. Her contribution is all the more impressive given her personal investment in her membership and I have no doubt that she should look forward to a successful political future."
MSYPs are elected by young people in their local area or a national organisation in which they are involved. MSYPs are democratically elected by young people to represent them and ensure their voice is listened to by local and national decision-makers.
Royal Scottish National Orchestra Residency Details Announced
The RSNO is set to undertake the most ambitious residency in its history when it decamps from its Glasgow base to Shetland for almost a week at the beginning of March. An extraordinarily rich programme of music making is promised featuring everything from a solo violinist to the full, 70-strong orchestra and ranging from Mozart to Mancini. There will also be the world première of a new work, Tingaholm, by Shetland fiddler, Chris Stout. Concerts and recitals will take place in every corner of Shetland. Full details are available on the Shetland Arts website and tickets are now on sale.
And So To Bed: Postscript
Back in our November 2011 edition, we reported that Shetland crofter, Drew Ratter, had won a luxurious Vi-Spring bed, made with Shetland wool supplied by Jamieson and Smith. His verdict? "I think this is the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in, and I'm absolutely thrilled to have won it"
There was more good news at the end of last year, when Vi-Spring's Shetland range of beds won the House Beautiful Gold Award for the best wool product. The company is working with Jamieson & Smith to fill their beds with Platinum Certified Real Shetland wool.
Blog Of The Month
Our blog this month is a little unusual in that it focuses on just one aspect of Shetland life, the very varied traffic that calls at the port of Lerwick. It'll obviously be of special interest if you're fascinated by ships and the sea but there are some good photographs and links to other Shetland images, including a webcam.