June 2014 Move Shetland Newsletter

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

Even by Shetland standards, May and June are, this year, something of a musical cornucopia. We kicked off May with the world-renowned Shetland Folk Festival, more about which later. More recently, we had an exceptional evening's music from Inge Thomson and her band, essentially a suite set in Fair Isle and featuring the words of Inge's cousin, the late Lise Sinclair, who sadly died last year; you can read more about the project here. May drew to a close with the Shetland Jazz Festival, always an enjoyable event that explores all corners of the jazz world under the direction of Dr Jeff Merrifield: there are programme details here. As I explain below, there's lots more music to enjoy in June.

The end of May also saw the annual "Relay for Life", a 12-hour overnight event at Lerwick's running track in which teams of fundraisers – this year numbering over 2,000 people – do a sponsored relay in aid of Cancer Research UK. Bearing in mind that Shetland is a community of around 23,000 people, the sums raised annually are astonishing. Last year, a new record of £279,000 was set and, with contributions still coming in, this year's total is certainly well in excess of £200,000.

This is a great time to enjoy the best that Shetland has to offer. The cliffs are alive with seabirds, the roadsides are a kaleidoscope of wild flowers and of course there's no real darkness, so – if you wanted to – you could explore around the clock. If you're thinking of a move to Shetland, one of your reconnaissance trips should really be between mid-May and mid-July, so that you can sample the "simmer dim", as we call the summer twilight. Don't forget that you can find all the information you need to plan a reconnaissance visit on our Visit.Shetland website.

There's lots more happening this month. The newly-refurbished lighthouse at Sumburgh Head was officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal on 3 June; the repair work and the sensitive extension to provide better interpretation – and a wonderful view – are truly outstanding.

June also sees the Shetland Classic Motor Show, a feast of nostalgia with a really impressive roster of vehicles of every kind from collectors in Shetland and across the UK; there will be more than 150 classic cars and more than 130 motorcycles, plus trucks, buses and much else.

All sorts of other summer events are under way; Sunday teas in country halls (which have been featured in an edition of BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme) are in full swing, the sailing season has started and dozens of other diversions range from guided walks to an international market. It really is "all go"!

Mr McFall's Chamber Opens Varied Month Of Music

A band that works across musical boundaries is the first of several treats in store for Shetland audiences during June.

Mr McFall's Chamber has been described as “the jewel in the Scottish musical crown” (The Scotsman), and lauded as “potentially the most important single development on the Scottish music scene for a long time” (The Herald). The ensemble plays a range of music from tango through jazz and rock to contemporary classical, taking in quite a lot more besides. It consists of string quartet, bass, piano, percussion and sometimes vocals - and more as required.

They're looking forward to performing in Mareel, Shetland's arts centre, on 5 June, on a tour that starts on London's South Bank and covers much of the UK. Dancing Under The Shadows, the programme which they will perform at Mareel on Thursday 5 June, explores Eastern European dance band music and sees the ensemble performing with pianist Simon Smith, who has been described as “a phenomenon – nothing daunts him, technically or musically” (The Scotsman).

Robert McFall said: “In the twenties and thirties Argentine tango took the whole world by storm, but nowhere more so than Poland, where songwriters and dance band leaders wrote their own tango numbers and, during the 30s, developed a specifically Polish style. The lavish nightclub scene in Warsaw and Krakow flourished to the music of these composers, albeit under the shadow of the rise of fascism over the border in Germany.” Indeed, many of the songwriters, composers, bandleaders, singers and musicians, the vast majority of whom were Jewish, were murdered in Nazi death camps.

Mr McFall's Chamber was formed in 1996 from a number of players from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Scottish Ballet, with a core group comprising two violins, viola, cello and bass. The group collaborates with additional musicians from project to project, regularly working with additional pianists, percussionists, singers and soloists, depending on the nature of the programme.

Barbara Dickson And Rab Noakes Blend Folk and Pop

Long-standing friends Barbara Dickson and Rab Noakes, popular on the Scottish musical scene for four decades, will play Mareel in Lerwick on 8 June.

Barbara and Rab have been friends since they were teenagers, singing and playing in venues around Scotland. As separate acts, they often found themselves performing alongside each other and they have sung on each other's records and remained friends for over 40 years. Both have diverse careers and have won awards and praise for their solo work in many fields. Now, they've reunited to perform a wonderful blend of folk songs, classic pop influences and self-written favourites. Rab's continuing reputation as one of Scotland's finest singer-songwriters and Barbara's skills as an interpreter of new and traditional songs provide an enviable platform for this unique show.

From her folk scene roots to mainstream chart success with hits including I Know Him So Well, Another Suitcase In Another Hall and January, February, Barbara Dickson has long since cemented her status as one of the UK's best-loved performers. As Scotland's best-selling female album artist she has earned 6 platinum, 11 gold and 7 silver albums. Barbara was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen in the 2002 New Year's Honours for her services to music and drama. You can see her performing Four Strong Winds in this YouTube video.

Rab Noakes has enjoyed a varied and illustrious musical life. He was a member of Stealers Wheel, wrote songs for hit-makers Lindisfarne and made regular appearances on shows such as John Peel's radio programme and BBC2's The Old Grey Whistle Test. Rab has a vast body of recorded work, often involving interesting collaborations, and continues to tour and make regular TV, radio and live appearances. In this YouTube video, he sings No More Time, a song written in tribute to the late Gerry Rafferty.

Music Students Prepare End-Of-Term Showcase

Music students who study at Shetland College UHI and Mareel will demonstrate their talents at a concert in Mareel on 18 June.

It's possible to study for National Certificate, Higher National Certificate and BA Applied Music in Shetland, using the resources at the college and Mareel, and the event will mark the end of another academic year. Mareel offers a great learning environment and students have access to its world-class facilities. Courses are led by experienced local music professionals and enhanced by guest speakers.

The students have been working on a range of projects and are looking forward to performing live on stage. Joe Watt, who has studied at Mareel for the past two years, said: “The Learn@Mareel: Student Showcase is the best way to demonstrate the learning and talent of Mareel and Shetland College's students and is a great experience for many, especially as it may be some students" first time performing in front of an audience. Over my two years on the courses, the student performances have been a major highlight for me.”

Bryan Peterson of Shetland Arts is the Course Leader. He said: “The courses delivered at Mareel in partnership with Shetland College UHI equip the students with a range of professional skills and knowledge, together with a portfolio of work, which they can build upon and take forward as their careers or studies progress.”

Amanda Shearer, another student, said: "The Learn@Mareel: Student Showcase is a great opportunity for the public and those interested in studying music to see the performance skills you can develop through the various courses."

New Bus Service Contracts Cut Costs, Expand Services

From August 2014, bus users in Shetland will enjoy a service that serves most routes at least as well as at present, and in many cases better, while also requiring a lower level of subsidy.

Although car ownership in Shetland is high, many people rely on bus services for commuting to work. A network of principal services connects Lerwick with all the larger communities; minibus feeder services connect with these, ensuring that most people, even in small and remote communities, are within reach of a bus route. School bus services are also an essential part of the provision.

ZetTrans (the islands" transport authority) and the Shetland Islands Council have approved a network which reduces costs through packaging services together and integrating school transport where possible. The new arrangements are designed to make the best use of available vehicles and staff while ensuring that everyone gets the services they need. In some cases, it's been possible to remove duplication of services, allowing others to be improved. The new contracts with bus operators will run for five years.

ZetTrans sees the tendering process as a significant success. Compared to tender prices in March 2013, the cost for a similar network is down from £4.486 million to £3.384 million. This is a reduction of £1.2m - 25% - and brings spending on the service down to 2009/10 levels. Over the five year period of the contracts, the saving to the Council will amount to more than £5.5 million.

Councillor Allan Wishart, who is Chairman of ZetTrans, welcomed the new deal:

“This was always going to be a difficult process, given the pressure on budgets and the scale of work which had to be done to tender all our services at once – never mind how we managed relationships with our providers during that process. I must pay tribute to the amount of work our staff have put into getting us to this position, and also to our local bus companies, who have recognised the pressures on our budgets, and done so much to get us to this position.”

A comparison between the existing and tendered services can be found here.

New online ferry booking service launches

Shetland Islands Council has launched a new online booking service for ferry users, offering the opportunity to reserve vehicle space on any of the main internal routes.

Vehicle ferries connect the Shetland mainland with all the larger islands. They're well used by commuters and for freight transport and visitors find that they can get around Shetland easily and economically. The network was established in the mid 1970s and each succeeding generation of vessel has been larger than its predecessor. The service has always been subsidised, reducing the costs that would otherwise fall on communities that rely on it.

Until now, booking a ferry has meant phoning one the relevant ferry office but users now have the alternative of going online, registering and then making a reservation at https://ferry.shetland.gov.uk/.

Maggie Sandison, Director of Infrastructure Services: “I'm very pleased we're able to offer our customers this enhanced service. People will need to register online once, but this is a very simple process. This is the first of a number of improvements that customers will start to see from the new ticketing and booking system.”

There's more about Shetland's internal ferry services here.

Folk Festival Highlights Available Online

Highlights from the 34th Shetland Folk Festival are now available to watch online, offering a taste of one of Britain's best roots music events.

The 2014 festival, held at the beginning of May, was as eclectic as ever. If your taste is for traditional fiddle with a Shetland and Scandinavian twist, you might want to have a listen to Nordic Fiddlers" Bloc, or you could check out The Dardanelles, from Newfoundland; for a touch of bluegrass, there was The Mountain Firework Company. On the other hand, if you like the Hot Club music of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, you'd have loved Rose Room.

Also very popular in Shetland, following their debut at the festival five years ago, are Canadian singer-songwriters Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, otherwise known as Madison Violet. Offering something quite different were The Sojourners, with a big gospel sound.

You can find all these and many more on our Shetland Folk Festival Page: just click on the top-left "playlist" button on the video panel to select the band you want to see. These performances were recorded at one of the three final public concerts, which take place simultaneously on the Sunday evening and, through clever logistics, feature all the visiting acts.

Community Tidal Energy Is World First

The world's first community-owned tidal power turbine has started exporting electricity to the local grid in Shetland.

The machine is identical, in principle, to a wind turbine. However, it sits on the seabed at a depth of over 100ft and its blades are turned by the power of the tide. The electricity generated is transmitted onshore via a 1km subsea cable.

The project is located off the island of Yell, Shetland's second most northerly inhabited island, in the waters of Yell Sound, where there is a strong tidal flow. It was initiated – and partly funded – by the North Yell Development Council and developed by Leith-based tidal energy company Nova Innovation. Further investment came from the Scottish Government's Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) and Shetland Islands Council.

The turbine will power up to 30 homes, a locally owned ice plant and Cullivoe Harbour Industrial Estate in North Yell.

The scheme has been widely welcomed. Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, expected “a positive impact on the North Yell community and economy.”

Robert Henderson, a Shetland councillor and Chairman of North Yell Development Council, said:

“This is a tremendous moment for North Yell. For the first time anywhere in the world, electricity is being generated from a community owned tidal turbine. Having used as much local expertise as possible we're keen to see Shetland taking a leading role in marine renewables."

Simon Forrest, Managing Director of Nova Innovation, said he was delighted that the Nova 30 tidal turbine had been successfully deployed. “It marks a major achievement for the wider Scottish tidal industry with over 80 per cent of Nova's supply chain Scottish based.” Indeed, the turbine's blades were made by Shetland Composites in Lerwick.

Jobs of the Month

Jobs on offer at NHS Shetland include a Consultant Physician, a Dietician and two Speciality Traineeships.

Vacancies with Shetland Islands Council include a Carbon and Energy Reduction Officer, a Ferry Deckhand and an Employment Support Assistant.

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

Blog of the Month

Our blog this month is from Shetland Handspun and offers some beautiful insights into Shetland's wonderful textile traditions.

View Blog