March 2009 Newsletter

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Here is our newsletter from March 2009. To receive our monthly newsletters by email, please sign-up using the form in the left column.

New Faces At NAFC Marine Centre

Two new appointments have been made at the NAFC Marine Centre in the village of Scalloway, both involving people who've chosen to make the move to Shetland. The Marine Centre – originally the North Atlantic Fisheries College – offers a wide range of courses in marine disciplines. It's one of the constituent colleges of the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute, which links many institutions across the north of Scotland.

Taking up his post, the new College Director, Professor David Gray, said that he had been 'blown away' by the centre, which he believed was a leader in many areas of marine work. However, he felt that the College and the opportunities it offered needed to be much better known. He praised the staff and equipment at the centre, which he said was a 'hidden gem'. He invited anyone with an interest in the College's potential to get in touch. 'We are here, first and foremost, for you', he said.

Also recently appointed at the College is Vicky Mordue, who has taken charge of its restaurant. Ms Mordue wants to expand the restaurant's services, attracting more conference business and introducing longer opening hours. She's also keen to use more local and organic produce, building on the restaurant's strong reputation for the freshest of fish. Hailing from York, she has a background as a chef and has worked in a variety of roles, including a spell with British Airways in their corporate hospitality service.

CLAN Appeal Passes £200,000

The Shetland community has a reputation for digging deep when raising funds for a whole range of charitable causes and the current appeal for the CLAN centre in Aberdeen is proving to be no exception. The Centre offers accommodation in Aberdeen for people receiving hospital treatment for cancer and those accompanying them. Expansion is planned, hence the new appeal. Donations have been pouring in at the rate of more than £1,000 a day since the appeal was launched in July 2008, with the total at the time of writing almost £224,000. CLAN Committee Co-ordinator Cecil Smith said that people in Shetland had shown 'a tremendous appetite to support CLAN'.

There have been many events throughout the islands to raise money and there has also been a large donation from the fishing industry, which contributed more than £17,000. The latest fund-raising idea is a Shetland version of Strictly Come Dancing in which eight local celebrities, including Tavish Scott MSP, have been paired with expert local dancers. The dance-off will take place before an audience of around 500 at Lerwick's Clickimin Centre and promises to be a night to remember.

Bog Standard Poetry Wanted

Shetland residents flush with poetic talent have the chance to shine in a competition that will result in their verse appearing in public toilets across the islands. Poems of up to twelve lines will be judged by Jen Hadfield, the Shetland-based poet who recently won the TS Eliot Prize. The six best entries will be available to read not only in all Shetland's leisure centres and other facilities but also on the Shetland Library's website. The first entries need to be in by 7 March, but there will be further rounds in June and September. Launching the 'Bards in the Bog' competition, Ms Hadfield said: 'I've always loved the idea of sneaking poetry into unexpected places, proving that poetry's place is in the real world, in real time'.

Craft Meets New Technology

Shetland will sparkle a little more brightly next winter thanks to a project led by Shetland Arts that's received a grant of £165,000 from the Scottish Arts Council's Lottery Inspire Fund. Ten buildings throughout Shetland will be illuminated in a variety of interesting ways and, later, there will be a festival of light. As part of the project, artists Roxane Permar and Nayan Kulkarni, who jointly proposed it, will also work with makers of the wonderfully fine Shetland lace knitting to produce light-based public art for the new cinema and music venue, Mareel, which is due to open in 2010.

There will be opportunities for anyone interested to get involved in community-based work. The name given to the project, Mirrie Dancers, is the Shetland term for the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis.

More Edinburgh Flights And Link To Cardiff

This summer, there will be additional flights between Shetland and Edinburgh. The present service consists of two daily flights in each direction, but from June until September there will be three daily flights on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Loganair, the Scottish airline which is a franchise partner of FlyBe, is also introducing a new daily, year-round link between Aberdeen and Cardiff that will connect with Shetland-Aberdeen flights, greatly improving air access to and from the south of Wales.

Sumburgh Lighthouse Plans Move Forward

After many years of planning and consultation, the Shetland Amenity Trust's proposals for the iconic Sumburgh Head Lighthouse have taken a major step forward. Plans for the project have been submitted for planning permission and listed building consent. The lighthouse, constructed by Robert Stevenson (Senior), dates from 1821.

It has a spectacular setting on the headland at Shetland's southernmost tip; to add to its appeal, Sumburgh Head is the easiest place in Shetland to get close to Puffins and is also a favourite base for whale-spotters. It's no wonder that it already attracts around 20,000 visitors annually and that figure is expected to increase to 30,000 or more once the project is complete. The buildings will be refurbished, later additions will be removed and a visitor centre provided. Better car and bus parking provision also figures in the plans, which you can view on the Shetland Islands Council's website: go to this page first for brief details, then click on 'files' to open the full list of drawings.

Top Job Available

Shetland Islands Council employs the northernmost local authority Chief Executive in Britain and the post will become vacant shortly, with the retirement in May of Morgan Goodlad, who has served in the job for the past ten years. The position blends many familiar local government challenges (and some that may be less so, such as the operation of ferry services) with the chance to live in a great environment and a very active community. The salary of £97,000 is at present under review. Advertisements for the post will appear soon.

Young Enterprise Company Wins Another Award

The Institute of Directors in Scotland has given its Young Enterprise Scotland award to Helen Whitham, managing director of GoEco, which is a company established by students at the Anderson High School in Lerwick. The company produces eco-friendly, fair trade canvas bags. This award comes on top of several others won at the Young Enterprise Scotland Awards, including a SEPA environment award, a best governance award and another 'best managing director' award for Helen Whitham.

Ann Cleeves' Latest Book Now Available

Jimmy Perez, the detective created by novelist Ann Cleeves, has his third outing in her new book, Red Bones (ISBN: 978-0-230-0144-6), the third instalment of her Shetland Quartet, which has just been published. It's set in spring, which should be a time of rebirth but which, in this case, is clouded by mysterious and tragic deaths. An archaeologist discovers human remains: but how old are they? And what of the family feuding that seems to have divided a community through envy and greed? Perez realises he's out of his depth. How will it end? As one reviewer in The Scotsman put it, 'cunning character play and deception play their part in this satisfying tale, bringing about a denouement that turns everything in the plot neatly and bewilderingly on its head'.

Shetland Drama Festival Under Way

Drama is popular among both audiences and players in Shetland and, each year, all the local drama groups have a chance to perform in the County Drama Festival, now under way at Lerwick's Garrison Theatre. This year's programme is as varied as ever, featuring dance, fantasy and comedy alongside straight drama. The adjudicator for the festival, Graham Bill, is an actor and director new to Shetland who's said to be very excited about his visit. A stimulus for drama in Shetland has been the introduction of a schools drama programme which enables young people to perform short pieces at the beginning of each evening's programme. It's hoped that this will ensure that the drama scene in the islands remains healthy into the future.

Bulgarian Opera Treat at Brae

Busta House, near the village of Brae, is one of Shetland's oldest and most beautiful buildings and its main lounge, known as the Long Room, was recently the setting for an evening of operatic highlights. Oksana Mavrodii and pianist Silviya Mihaylova presented a wide range of work featuring well-known arias, piano solos, and folk songs in a musical celebration that took in Mozart, Schubert, Gershwin, Scriabin, Verdi, Chopin and Puccini. Oksana Mavrodii, a graduate of Sofia's State Academy of Music is married to a Shetlander, Eric Peterson.

Shetland Performers Reflect On Celtic Connections Success

As always, this year's huge Celtic Connections festival, held in Glasgow, featured a number of Shetland musicians, including Fiddler's Bid; young fiddler Maggie Adamson and guitarist Brian Nicolson; Catriona MacDonald (who plays in the band Blazin' Fiddles); fiddler Chris Stout (who appeared with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra); Jenna Reid (a fiddler with Deaf Shepherd); accordionist Inge Thomson (in Harem Scarem), fiddler Ross Couper, (in Bodega) and of course the exquisitely talented Aly Bain. The Shetland presence was spread across the 18 days of the festival, rather than (as in 2008) being concentrated in one evening.

Viking Experience Returns

The Up Helly A season may be behind us, but the Viking theme has continued to resonate around Shetland with a visit from Viking Timeslip and Wordsmith Crafts, who peform historical roles,offer craft demonstrations and introduce Shetland audiences to long-forgotten Viking games. They are visiting a number of Shetland communities in early March and say they love working within communities that have a passion for their cultural heritage. The Shetland Islands Council's spokesperson on cultural matters, Councillor Rick Nickerson, said: “Viking heritage is a strong and celebrated part of Shetland's history, including amaz¬ing archaeological sites like Jarlshof and Scatness, as well as Viking Unst. Bringing Viking history to life en¬courages everyone to be enthusiastic about our heritage. I welcome this project, and how it provides an opportunity to link the past with the present, so it can be enjoyed by everyone.”

Arrangements for One Life Live at Olympia Confirmed

As we mentioned last month, the Shetland.org team will be at Olympia on 13, 14 and 15 March, at an event called One Life Live. Our special offer is still open: when booking your tickets, just quote B46 and you'll be able to buy two tickets for just £22. So, please visit us on stand B46! As a subscriber to this newsletter, you've also been entered in a free prize draw for which the prize is a short break in Shetland.

One Life Live is aimed at people who want to do something different with their lives: maybe a short break from routine, a big adventure or a completely new direction. Shetland.org has a stand and we'll be there to talk to you in person about life in Shetland, help with any questions you may have and amplify the information on the move.shetland.org website. We'll have some special guests, too. Jen Hadfield will be reading some of her poetry and ex-Londoner Roxanne Permar will be showing pictures of the islands and talking about life here.

Jen and Roxanne will be in the Brighter Futures Theatre from 1440 until 1500 on Saturday 14 March and 1300 until 1320 on Sunday 15 March. There will also be live music on the stand from Shetland performers.