July 2008 Newsletter

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Here is our newsletter from July 2008. To receive our monthly newsletters by email, please sign-up using the form in the left column.

Shetland Education Service Praised In Government Report

In a new report, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education has highlighted the quality of the education services provided by Shetland Islands Council. The inspectors gave particular credit to pre-school education, the effective use of information technology and the emphasis on achievement, diversity, inclusion and equality. They were impressed by 'the provision of high quality educational experiences' and by attainment in national examinations. Other strengths included support for young people and families, the leadership of the Education Service and the high quality of continuing professional development for staff.

A second report has also praised the Council's Educational Psychology Service. Particular strengths included the way in which the service had developed high quality provision for pupils with complex needs and social, emotional, and behavioural needs. The Service had used island resources flexibly so that pupils could stay in their own community.

The reports also made some suggestions for improvement, which the Council will now be pursuing.

Shetland Tops Another Chart

Recently, Shetland's attractions as a place to live or visit have been highlighted in a number of publications. For example, National Geographic Traveller voted the islands third best island destination and The Rough Guide to Scotland has picked out Mousa Broch as a top sight to see in Scotland. Now, another article has praised the isles. The Guardian's travel section has picked out Shetland as the top sea kayaking destination in Europe, citing 'the number of sea caves, which are huge and often complex structures hundreds of metres long with side passages and collapsed roofs, where shafts of sunlight shine into the crystal blue waters from above'. To read more, please see the online version of the article.

Italian Slow Food Enthusiasts Tour Shetland

As Shetland gradually becomes better known as a source of good food, there's increasing interest in visiting the islands to sample what's on offer. During June, the islands hosted a two-day visit by a group of 16 Slow Food enthusiasts from Italy.

The concept of 'slow food' was developed to counter the spread of fast food, something which the founders of the movement saw as a risk to regional and local food traditions around the world. They wanted food to be good, fairly produced and clean (in particular, free of additives). They were determined that industrialised food production shouldn't be allowed to overwhelm traditional crops and cuisine.

It's no coincidence that our visitors were from Italy, since it was there that Carlo Petrini, an Italian journalist, founded the Slow Food movement in 1986. One enthusiast, Claudio Riva, visited Shetland briefly in 2007 and was so impressed with what he found that he organised a visit by the larger group in 2008. The Council's Economic Development Unit devised an itinerary for the group that allowed them to visit several local producers and taste as much Shetland food as possible. There's more about Slow Food at http://www.slowfood.org.uk/about.

Viking Unst in the running to win a National Lottery Award

The Viking Unst project, on the island of Unst, has reached the semi-finals of The National Lottery Awards 2008 and has been battling against other nine other Lottery-funded projects from across the UK for the chance to win £2,000 to spend on their project and the opportunity to star in a special prime-time BBC1 TV show.

Unst was central to the Viking North Atlantic seaways, leaving it rich in Viking and Norse remains. Lottery money has allowed the Viking Unst project to investigate and bring the archaeology to life, helping to open up many of the longhouses, burial sites and chapels. The third and final excavation has just begun; the site is covered by peat, so the team may find organic material, such as wood and even cloth, which does not often survive. Val Turner of the Shetland Amenity Trust described the project's progress to the semi-finals as 'a fantastic achievement'.

Shetland Food Directory Launched

Shetland is a source of wonderful ingredients: fish and shellfish, native lamb, excellent beef and the traditional Shetland Black potato. Until now, though, it hasn't been easy to track down suppliers. With that in mind, Shetland Islands Council has launched a local food directory, which is available not only in booklet form but also online: please go to http://www.foodshetland.com. There's also a useful section on eating out in Shetland.

Norwegian Connection Renewed

Shetland's historical ties with Norway are very close; indeed many Norwegians think of Shetland as their 'western isles'. Summer travel connections between Shetland and Norway have for the most part been maintained, by sea or air, for the last two decades. The link provided by the Faroese ferry, Norrona, ceased in 2007 but, in summer 2008, a new air service was introduced between Sumburgh Airport in Shetland and Bergen. It's operated by Loganair, currently the British Airways franchise partner that provides Shetland's scheduled services. The new route operates in each direction on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It has proved popular and has opened up many opportunities. For example, an entire Norwegian shanty choir and their partners were able to participate in the 2008 Johnsmas Foy and the flights have also been well-used by Shetland residents. From Bergen, there are good onward connections to all parts of Scandinavia.

Zero Carbon House Attracts Worldwide Attention

Shetland's northernmost island, Unst, is at the centre of media attention at the moment, thanks to the recent completion of a zero-carbon house in the village of Uyeasound (pronounced YOUeesoond). Dr Michael Rea and his wife Dot have recently moved into their new home, which at first glance looks very much like any other in Shetland.

However, this new building incorporates some very advanced technology. It's been designed to be self-sufficient and what little energy it uses is supplied by an aerogenerator and a heat pump. It's highly-insulated to minimise heat loss. The same philosophy extends outside the house; the Reas are planning to drive an electrically powered Toyota Yaris (charged from the aerogenerator) as personal transport. They'll also be growing as much as possible of their own food. Following coverage in the Guardian, where there is also a video, the house has attracted an extraordinary level of worldwide interest.

Johnsmas Foy Offered Wide Range of Attractions

The Johnsmas Foy is Shetland's summer festival, marking the long summer days and celebrating Shetland's heritage. The Foy is a revival of a much earlier event that used to herald the arrival in Shetland of the Dutch fishing fleet at Johnsmas (24 June). Each year, there's a particular theme; this year it was Shetland's connection to the Hanseatic League, the trading association centred in north Germany that dominated European trade, especially maritime trade, for centuries. For the event, Shetland welcomed poets, musicians and a chef from northern Germany, as well as the shanty choir, mentioned above, from Bergen - another port with a strong Hanseatic pedigree. Bremen-based poets Michael Augustin and Sujata Bhatt are seen here (right) with singer-songwriter Wolfgang Rieck at their performance in Baltasound, Unst. The Foy also featured music from Shetland performers, yacht and rowing races, football, wildlife walks, drama, sailing trips and much more. For more, please go to http://www.johnsmasfoy.com/.

July Sees First Nature Festival

With such a wonderful variety of wildlife on the doorstep, a nature festival in Shetland was an event just waiting to happen. In 2008, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scottish Natural Heritage and VisitShetland have joined forces to organise the very first Nature Festival and it got under way on 5 July.

There are all kinds of events, for example guided walks, sketching, a mini-aquarium, boat cruises and fun events for children (and adults).