July 2013 Move Shetland Newsletter

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Hi, I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to the July 2013 issue of our monthly newsletter.

June was, as always, a busy month, with all sorts of musical events, the beginning of the islands' Nature Festival, a visiting continental market in Lerwick and - as I report below - a steady stream of visiting yachts, dozens of them in races but others simply cruising.

Midsummer - a very special time in Shetland, with no darkness - is celebrated in a variety of ways. The biggest public event is an annual carnival on the streets of Lerwick, with decorated floats, and 21 June is also Shetland's flag day. However, many people mark the date in their own way. Some head north to the island of Unst, where the day is the longest in Britain, or climb the islands' highest peak, Ronas Hill, to enjoy the few hours of twilight between sunset and dawn.

Just after midsummer, I enjoyed a wonderful evening cruise around the islands of Noss and Bressay with Seabirds and Seals, one of the operators that offer the trip, allowing superb close-up views of gannets, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and quite a few grey seals. It was a calm evening, allowing the boat to go right inside several of the caves. In Shetland, experiences like that are right on the doorstep, with world-class natural heritage easily accessible to locals and visitors alike. As my colleague Abby explains in the July edition of the Visit.Shetland newsletter, you can also get to Noss by taking the short ferry trip from Lerwick to Bressay, travelling across Bressay and hopping on a Zodiac for a two-minute spin across the narrow Noss Sound.

There's lots to look forward to in July. Musically, there's a feast of Americana, with Cajun, bluegrass and country sounds, at Mareel. But music will also feature in a string of local festivals and galas all over Shetland, the biggest of which are UnstFest and Glusstonberry, At the end of the month, the International Textile Festival begins.

Don't forget that our companion website, Visit.Shetland.org, has lots of information about what you can do and advice on planning your trip. You can also read our online quarterly magazine, 60 North and the Visit.Shetland newsletter - the May edition is just out.

Shetland limbers up for a summer of sport

A "summer of sport" is under way in Shetland. The programme, which features many different events, promises a wide range of sporting opportunities.

Shetland's Summer of Sport and is one of many initiatives across Scotland that mark the countdown to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, to be held in Glasgow. The programme is supported by EventScotland, which has come up with a grant of £10,000. The intention is that new sports events will be developed and existing ones will be better promoted.

Among many other activities, there will be school sports events, a midsummer cycle and sportive, a summer holiday programme involving sports clubs and associations, Community Sports Hub open days and a schools dance programme. On 23 July, exactly a year before the Glasgow games open, there will be a family picnic at Lerwick's Gilbertson Park with the chance to take part in mountain biking and mini-athletics alongside crafts, flag painting and music. An online diary will keep everyone informed about what's happening. The programme runs until the end of August.

Shetland has superb sporting facilities, including several indoor sports centres, nine swimming pools and a wide range of outdoor pitches for football, rugby, hockey and other games. The islands" athletes have often returned from competitions elsewhere with an impressive collection of medals.

Crime-writing festival will feature a Shetland night

Crime writer Ann Cleeves, whose Shetland-set quartet of crime novels has been adapted for television, is to host a Shetland night at the "Bloody Scotland" crime fiction festival in Stirling.

The festival, to be held in mid-September, brings together a host of crime writers and their readers. It's only the second such event, but last year's was so successful that the organisers decided that it must be repeated. Whether your interest lies in espionage, forensics, Nordic noir or traditional mystery, there will be something that appeals. As well as Ann Cleeves, the long list of well-known writers features Scandinavian intrigue from Jo Nesbo and Arne Dahl; and there's also a strong Scottish presence.

The Shetland night, which promises Shetland food, drink and music as well as a warm welcome from Ann Cleeves, will take place at 8pm on 14 September in the StirlingSmithMuseum. If you're in the area, it sounds like an excellent way to spend a Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, filming for the next BBC television series will go ahead in Shetland during July.

Mareel wins two national architectural awards

Shetland's new arts centre, Mareel, has won two architectural awards and is now being considered for Britain's top architectural accolade, the Stirling Prize.

Mareel was one of only five Scottish projects to receive a RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) National Award for architectural excellence. The building has also won an award from the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) and has been short-listed for the Andrew Doolan Prize, the annual award for the best Scottish building. Mareel is the Shetland name for the brilliant phosphorescence that's sometimes seen in the sea.

Managed by Shetland Arts Development Agency, the leading arts agency in Shetland, Mareel is the UK's most northerly music, cinema and creative industries centre.

The building, designed by Gareth Hoskins Architects in association with Lerwick-based PJP Architects, is situated in what was once a derelict area of the Lerwick waterfront, the regeneration of which won Scotland's top planning award in 2009. Mareel incorporates a live performance auditorium, two cinema screens, rehearsal rooms, a recording studio, education and training spaces, a digital media production suite, broadcast facilities and a cafe bar with free wi-fi.

Providing a year round programme of film, live music, education and other performance events, Mareel is a hub and a focus for the creative communities not just in Shetland but beyond, and a catalyst for the creative industry sector in Shetland.

Shetland Arts" Marketing Officer, Lisa Ward, said: “Mareel is an exceptional building and we are proud to see it acknowledged by these national institutes for architectural excellence.”

The winner of the Stirling Prize will be announced on 26 September, in London, and the Andrew Doolan Prize will also be awarded later this year.

Solo round Britain and Ireland voyage calls at Lerwick

A yachtsman who is sailing single-handed around Britain and Ireland, with the aim of raising money for a range of charities, reached Lerwick in the middle of June.

The first leg of Alan Rankin's challenge aboard his trimaran, Trade Winds, took him from Ullapool, in north-west Scotland, to Shetland. From Lerwick, the route runs south, then west along the English Channel. Rounding Land's End, the voyage will continue around Ireland, St Kilda and the Outer Hebrides before arriving back at Ullapool. The distance involved is 2,300 miles, much of it in very exposed waters.

Alan is also undertaking a 10,000 metre fund-raising run at each of the ports en route, which, in addition to Ullapool and Lerwick, are Blyth, Lowestoft, Brighton, Poole, Falmouth, Dingle (County Kerry), Broad Haven (County Mayo) and Stornoway. The charities that will benefit from his efforts are Parkinson's UK, Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and Ocean Youth Trust Scotland.

Alan is determined to use entirely renewable resources - wind, wave, tidal and solar power - during the journey and he has also decided to use only food and drink that comes from British producers committed to sustainability.

Trade Winds spent longer in Lerwick than intended. After setting off southwards, Alan discovered that there was a problem with the vessel's rigging and he had to return to port in order to await the arrival of replacement parts.

You can follow his progress on the Solo Round Britain Challenge website, where you can also make a donation to the charities. We wish him well for the rest of the journey.

Peat cutters head for the moors

Peat is cut for fuel in many parts of Shetland and good days in May and June prompt some people to head for the peat banks.

Many crofters have peat on their own croft, or will have a "peat right" on the common grazings. It's also possible for anyone to rent a peat bank and the cost of doing so is generally low.

The first stage is always to remove the grass and heather from the top of the peat bank. The peat is then sliced off in neat bricks, using a special spade called a tushkar, and is laid to dry on the heather. After a few days, the slowly-hardening pieces are "raised" into small pyramids to allow more air to reach them.

When it's properly dry, the peat is bagged and brought home to be stored, to be used in stoves and fires over the following winter. Peat varies considerably in quality: some is brown, fibrous and quick-burning, whilst some has a much smoother, clay-like texture and dries to form a dense black material rather like lignite.

There's an old joke that the heat generated during the toil of cutting, raising, bagging, transporting and stacking is greater than that produced in the burning. Nevertheless, the glow of peats and the wonderful smell of peat smoke are, most would say, ample compensation.

Trust teaches dry stone dyking

Dry-stone dykes are seen in every corner of Shetland and the art of building them is very much alive.

Three one-day dyking courses were recently held at Sumburgh Head, where new dykes are being constructed in connection with the renovation of the lighthouse. Stonemason, Robbie Arthur, led 25 participants through the techniques involved, giving them a good understanding of the principles.

Many new dry stone dykes have been built in Shetland in recent years. Some have been included in public projects or in art installations but many householders have also constructed them to provide more shelter in gardens and add an attractive feature to their property.

Further courses are likely to follow if there is sufficient demand.

Rural mobile phone customers gain 3G coverage

In an experiment aimed at bringing 3G mobile coverage to remoter areas, a mobile phone company has installed new equipment in the village of Walls.

Like many small communities, Walls (pronounced Waas) hasn't enjoyed the level of access to mobile phone services enjoyed in towns and cities. The basic mobile signal is poor or non-existent.

In an attempt to put this right, Vodafone has installed four small cells in locations around the village. The units can be sited wherever there's a reasonably fast broadband connection and each of them has a range of up to 300 metres. The system is very similar to the SureSignal service already offered by Vodafone to individual users.

Walls was one of 170 communities across the UK that sought to become part of the experiment. If the trial is successful, the technology could be adopted by many small villages and hamlets that are beyond the range of conventional mobile services.

Midsummer yacht races pack Lerwick Harbour

Around the time of the longest day, Lerwick is the target for yachts taking part in the North Sea races that have become a fixture in the isles" summer calendar.

Between 21 and 24 June, the port played host to two major yachting events, the Bergen-Shetland Race and the 1000-mile Double Handed Race which starts from Ijmuiden in the Netherlands.

Both races are for yachts of at least 27 feet in length with a crew of up to four for the Bergen event and two for the 1000-mile race. These are large yachts and they always make a really impressive sight as they arrive and depart. The North Sea can offer very challenging sailing, and this year was no exception, particularly on the return leg from Lerwick to Bergen.

Jobs of the Month

There are several jobs on offer at NHS Shetland, including posts for a midwife and a dental receptionist.

Posts with Shetland Islands Council include a Specialist Social Worker (Mental Health), an airport firefighter and several posts in nursery and early years education. A senior post is likely to become available soon in the Infrastructure Services Department, where the present Executive Director is moving on to a new job in England; if such a post interests you, it would be worth keeping an eye on the Council's vacancy list.

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

Blog of the Month

We have two blogs this month, one by a visitor to Shetland and one by a young Shetlander who, like so many of her contemporaries, has set off to explore the world. The visitor is Alan Rankin, the solo sailor whose call at Lerwick we report above, whilst the Shetland adventurer is Gabby Cluness, who has been in South and Central America.