June 2012 Move Shetland Newsletter

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Hello! I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to our June edition.

June is always a busy month in Shetland. We've already revved up with the Classic Motor Show, which saw a wonderful collection of cars, motorcycles, buses and trucks assemble in Shetland for a weekend of displays and tours. Next weekend, there's the first Shetland Jazz Festival, the Lerwick Lifeboat Open Day and the arrival of the Olympic Torch. A little later, we'll be welcoming the Bergen-Shetland yacht race, which always brings crowds to Lerwick's harbour-front.

But that's not all that's on offer. The 'simmer dim' (the twilight that replaces darkness) is now with us and it always seems to induce even more energy in the community than usual. There's a variety of other things to look forward to: galas, concerts, fishing competitions and regattas. The Shetland Times has a more comprehensive list. We'll also continue to keep an eye on PuffinCam at Sumburgh Head where everyone hopes that the chick will hatch round about the middle of the month.

This is also a great time of year for getting out and about. Shetland is great walking country and cyclists like our quiet roads. Kayaking is popular too: old friends of mine who live in the north east of Scotland came to Shetland for the first time in May and they've decided to come back next year, having had a great time exploring our dramatic coast and spotting otters and lots of other wildlife. Some of the coast features in this short video tour of Shetland's geologyand you can follow links from that site to other videos about a rowing regatta and kayaking.

Thanks to our location, Shetland receives all kinds of visitors. Among the more unusual during May were the three intrepid helicopter pilots who have decided to raise money for charity by flying all the way from the North Cape in Norway to Cape Town in South Africa. There are more details of their exploits here. I caught up with them when they landed at Tingwall Airstrip, near Lerwick, on a very damp morning.

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. Whatever brings you to Shetland, the Shetland 2012 visitor brochure 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!

Shetland Relay For Cancer Research Is Largest In Europe

More than 2,000 people in Shetland have raised at least £200,000 for Cancer Research in what is now the largest Relay For Life in Europe.

The final total is not yet known, but it's hoped that it may exceed the previous record, £225,000. The annual event takes place overnight on the running track at the Clickimin Leisure Centre in Lerwick, symbolising the truth that cancer never sleeps.

The event provides further evidence of Shetland residents' generosity in charitable giving in both time and cash. More than 100 teams had entered this year and they were supported by a host of helpers who provided food and refreshments from dusk until dawn. The number of participants was equivalent to about a tenth of Shetland's population.

Giant Oyster

What's believed to be the largest oyster ever landed in Britain was caught in Shetland waters in May. The oyster weighed more than a kilogram and measured 201mm across. It was caught about 30 miles east of the islands by the Fidelitas and the vessel's skipper handed it over to experts at the NAFC Marine Centre, a fisheries college in Scalloway. They reckoned that it could have been alive for several decades.

Although this was a huge specimen, it wasn't the largest oyster ever found. That honour remains with one caught in the United States, in Chesapeake Bay.

Norwegian Prime Minister Receives Warmest Of Welcomes

The visit of the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, during which he opened the new Scalloway museum, will be long remembered in Shetland. As I explained last month, Mr Stoltenberg was due to visit the islands on Norwegian National Day and he visited several sites connected with the 'Shetland Bus', which was the supply line and escape route for the Norwegian resistance during the Second World War. He spent some time at Lunna, the operation's original base in the north-east of the mainland, and at the Norwegian war graves in Lerwick's cemetery.

However, the main focus of the visit was Scalloway where, as well as opening the museum, he took part in a memorial service and parade through the village, attended by hundreds of local people. Here is a short video feature, in Norwegian, illustrating his visit; once the web page has opened, you'll need to click on the image and wait about 15 seconds while a commercial runs.

Mr Stoltenberg's north Atlantic journey followed an ancient Viking seaway to Faroe and Greenland. From there, he went on to the United States, where he took part in international meetings.

Isles Ready To Welcome London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay

Fair Isle, which lies between the Shetland mainland and Orkney, is one of the ten best islands in the world, according to National Geographic. In the third edition of 'The 10 Best of Everything', Fair Isle is ranked number 5, behind Nantucket, the Scilly Isles, Saba in the Netherlands West Indies and the Canary Islands. The remainder of the top ten comprises Lord Howe Island in Australia; Capri; the US Channel Islands; Tahiti; and the Andeman Islands, Thailand.

Fair Isle is the remotest permanently inhabited island in the British Isles. It's a thriving community of around 70 people. Although crofting, knitwear and tourism are important, the islanders have looked to the future by pioneering advanced energy systems. There's a boatbuilding tradition, too, and music and poetry also feature strongly in island life, for example in the work of Lise Sinclair.

Lerwick also features in another top ten, this time from USA Today. Their recent list of 'ten charming island towns' notes that it's a good starting point for travelers who want to explore this craggy land of Shetland ponies and seabirds'. More North American visitors seem to be finding their way to Shetland these days, many of them on cruise liners but some as independent travellers.

Fair Isle Primary awarded 4th Eco Flag

Meanwhile, pupils at Fair Isle's tiny school have been successful in achieving their 4th Eco-flag. Head teacher, Lisa Bracken, said that it was a 'tremendous achievement on behalf of the Eco-committee, the parent council, staff and members of the community.'

The committee, which comprises all pupils, had worked on two new topics for this flag - the school grounds and biodiversity - and had co-opted various people to help them. The parent council played an important part in improving the school grounds; painting markings on the playground, working in conjunction with Sustrans to make a new cyclepath to school; painting stones to use as counters in playground draughts; and helping on the school's annual Day of Action.

The Eco-Committee aim to ensure that they are always learning something new or beginning a new project with the school's sustainability at its heart. Recent school based work has included looking at new menu plans for school lunches, an RSPB bird-watch and a study of different varieties of seaweed in the South Harbour.

Five Shetland Beaches Gain Awards

The environmental organisation, Keep Scotland Beautiful, has announced the winners in its annual Seaside Beach Awards and five of them are in Shetland.

The beaches are Sands of Breckon and West Sandwick on the island of Yell, Tresta in the West Mainland and St Ninian's Isle and the West Voe at Sumburgh, both in the South Mainland. All of them have featured in the awards since 2007 and 2008.

The annual award recognises high standards of cleanliness, safety, and water quality. A minimum of 14 criteria must be met.

The beaches that have won awards are some of the more popular ones out of the hundreds around Shetland's 1,697-mile coastline. As our page on beaches explains, there are many more, often in spectacular settings. What's more, the remoter ones are often virtually deserted, even on fine days.

Shetland Crafts Enliven Glasgow Ideal Homes Show

The Scottish Ideal Homes Show, which ran in Glasgow from 2 to 5 June, included items from two Shetland craft producers, Burra Bears and Paparwark Furniture. They were on display in the Prince's House, a design for a sustainable home developed in association with Prince Charles.

Burra Bears come from the workshop of Wendy Inkster at Houss on the island of East Burra. Wendy made her first bear as a present for her sister but the idea rapidly developed into a successful business. The bears are mainly made using traditionally-patterned Shetland jumpers, though other finishes are sometimes used.

Paparwark Furniture is hand-crafted in the village of Scalloway. The firm specialises in creating beautiful, bespoke furniture for their clients. Some of their work is domestic, but they have often produced larger-scale items such as boardroom tables. Paparwark has also had another success recently, taking part in the Clerkenwell Design Week in London.

Shetland Saxophonist Features In Awards For Young Musicians

Seventeen year old Norman Willmore, a fifth-year student at Lerwick's Anderson High School, has won a scholarship worth £500 from Awards for Young Musicians, a scheme run by the Musicians' Benevolent Fund. Norman has been prominent on the Shetland musical scene since he was at primary school, when (in 2007) he was Junior Shetland Young Musician of the Year. The new award is similar to one that he gained in 2009. His playing has been consistently impressive, technically excellent and mature in style. Not surprisingly, he will be playing at next weekend's Shetland Jazz Festival.

Study Will Examine Textiles And Knitwear

A review of the textiles and knitwear sector in Shetland will identify the opportunities and challenges facing the industry and develop recommendations for future growth. The study has been commissioned by Shetland Islands Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.

Shetland knitwear is world-famous, though the name doesn't enjoy legal protection and is routinely applied to items that were neither made in the islands nor include Shetland wool.

The Council's Head of Business Development, Douglas Irvine, emphasised that the textile sector is an important part of Shetland economy and culture. 'In recent years there has been an increase in the number of textile related businesses in Shetland, and this is the time to be looking at options for the industry to develop and be supported for the future.'

Shetland Arts also welcomes the study - Hazel Hughson, Arts Development Officer for crafts said: 'This is a good time to be looking at the ways that people making Shetland textiles can work together - in industrial textiles, as textile designers and in craft practice, and to consider options for the future. We encourage all textile practitioners to contribute to the survey and look forward to hearing the results.'

The first stage of the review is now under way. Consultants Kirsty Scott and Maggie Marr of Weave Consult have been visiting Shetland to meet with companies and support agencies.

Falklands Delegation Learns From Shetland

A large delegation from the Falkland Islands has visited Shetland in order to learn lessons that can be applied to the exploitation of the Falklands' energy resources.

Recent discoveries of gas and oil to the north and south of the Falklands are projected to create an energy boom for the islands, similar to that which benefited Shetland in the 1970s and 80s.

The visit was organised by the Falklands Chamber of Commerce. They made the 8,300 mile journey primarily to understand how Shetland had dealt with the oil industry. Promoting trade and investment was also on the agenda, with representatives from the Falklands freight, aquaculture and fishing industries among the delegation.

The visitors were led by a Member of the Falklands Legislative Assembly, Dick Sawle, who first visited Shetland 10 years ago as a representative of the Falklands fishing industry. Now responsible for trade and industry, Mr Sawle said he was struck by what he had seen in Shetland following a tour of the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal: "There's some uncanny similarities between a lot of the developments in Shetland and many of those in Falklands. It's quite astonishing really."

Executive Manager of the Council's Economic Development Service, Douglas Irvine, said there had been a useful exchange of information: He said: 'Our visitors were keen to learn about Shetland's experience of oil, particularly how negotiations with the oil industry can be successful in benefiting the local community. We also discussed the development of the Charitable Trust, and the work of the Lerwick Port Authority over the past 40 years.'

The delegation took part in a series of meetings, seminars and tours and also enjoyed a civic reception in Lerwick Town Hall on Friday evening. The 40 members of the delegation constituted more than 1% of the Falklands' entire population.

Meanwhile, there's news of another South Atlantic connection. A former pupil of Lerwick's Anderson High School, John Angus MacRitchie, has become Chief Magistrate on the tiny island of St Helena.

Shetland Elections Produce New Leadership

The recent local government elections in Shetland saw the retirement from office of several long-serving councillors and the arrival of a number of new faces. One of the new members, Councillor Malcolm Bell, was elected as the Shetland Islands Council's Convener at the first meeting of the new Council on 24th May. He said: 'It is an honour and a privilege to take up this role. Although many challenges lie ahead of us, I believe the best days for Shetland are still ahead, and I'll work hard to develop links between the leadership, members, staff, and the wider community.'

The Convener chairs the Council but there is also a Leader; that role has been taken on by Councillor Gary Robinson. He says that working together is the key to success. 'The Council needs to develop mutual trust and respect with its staff, and involve the community as much as possible in future decisions which will affect everyone in Shetland.'

Although party political groupings have occasionally played a part in Shetland's local authority, the newly-elected Council is made up entirely of people who stood on an independent ticket.

Blog Of The Month

Our well-illustrated blog this month comes from Simon Clarke, who is an archaeologist and has been lecturing at Shetland College (part of the Univesity of the Highlands and Islands) since 1998.