May 2015 Move Shetland Newsletter

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Hi, I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to the May edition of our newsletter.

One thing that this month's general election won't change is the place of music at the heart of Shetland life. We've just enjoyed one of the musical highlights of the year, namely the Shetland Folk Festival, and this year's has more than lived up to expectations. As always, there was a great variety of music to suit just about every taste, for this is a festival that doesn't get too worked up about musical boundaries. However, the musical tap will continue to flow through spring and summer.

If the Folk Festival had a theme, it was possibly Americana; and there's more of that to come in the middle of this month – when virtuoso fiddler Bruce Molsky plays three concerts – and then again on 3 August, when the much-praised Punch Brothers fly in to play Mareel. In more traditional vein, fiddle fans will also be flocking to Shetland in August for the annual Fiddle Frenzy, which mixes tuition with concerts. Packages and concert tickets have been selling very well.

In the meantime, in early June, we have other delights in store. On 5, 6 and 7 June, the New Rope String Band – who combine great musicianship with comic genius and hints of circus – will be including Shetland in their farewell tour. The Shetland JAWS Festival – featuring jazz and world sounds – gets under way at the same time, running from the 5th to the 14th.

Music apart, Shetland is warming up for all sorts of other spring and summer diversions. Boats are being readied for a string of regattas and the "eelas" (community sea-fishing competitions), or for some trout fishing on one of our hundreds of well-stocked lochs. Local hall committees and charities are making the arrangements for all the mouth-watering Sunday afternoon teas that have become an institution. Other folk are digging out the golf clubs, tennis raquets or walking boots, or setting out the bedding plants – and we have a couple of gardening blogs this month.

We always recommend that anyone thinking of moving to Shetland should make at least two visits to get a feel for the place and the people, and that one of these visits should be in summer. Especially in June and early July, when the nights are at their lightest, it's simply magical. There's loads of helpful trip-planning information on our Visit Shetland site.

Distance No Object For Frankie's Fish And Chips

Japanese shoppers will taste Shetland seafood when Frankie's, the award-winning chippy in the village of Brae, pops up in the country's most famous department store.

As winner of the title of the UK's No.1 fish and chip shop, Frankie's manager Carlyn Kearney has been invited to participate in the annual British Fair run by the Hankyu store for three weeks in September and October.

She will fly more than 5,000 miles to Fukuoka in Kyushu, where she will fry fish and chips in the Hakata store before moving north to Osaka in Honshu and the Umeda store. The invitation follows a recent visit to Frankie's by two representatives of the Hankyu stores, which in British terms are the equivalent of Harrods or Harvey Nichols. Wataru Kuwahara and Keiji Hayashi flew to Shetland as part of a round of visits to a wide range of British companies they have invited to take part in the British Fair, which has been running for 40 years.

Mrs Kearney said: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity for us to show off our wares and our skills in Japan. We enjoyed having Mr Wataru and Mr Keiji at Frankie's; they were so enthusiastic and full of fun, and really keen to have us out in Japan. Logistically, it's going to be tough to get everything in order and out to Japan for the pop-up shop, but we relish a challenge and look forward to making this happen!”

Mr Keiji, who lives in London, said: “We were delighted to come to Frankie's and really enjoyed our fish and chips. Fish and chips have become a major part of the British Fair in recent years, and we always like to have the best of British there. We look forward to welcoming Carlyn and Frankie's to Japan and to Hankyu. Carlyn will be busy as Japanese people are enthusiastic about this kind of food and in past years have bought a lot of fish and chips!”

All the fish and potatoes for the chips will be transported to Japan from this country in a freezer container. The meals will be served in specially-printed boxes that will carry information, in Japanese, about Frankie's and the qualities of Shetland seafood.

Filming Under Way For New Series Of 'Shetland'

The cast and crew of Shetland, the television crime series based on the books of Ann Cleeves, have been back in the islands to record the third series.

The first two pilot episodes, broadcast in 2013, led to a second series a year later. Filming for six new episodes has been taking place at various locations around the islands, with the local community and the Shetland Islands Council keen to build on Shetland's growing reputation as a place that warmly welcomes film-makers. To meet the needs of the production team, roads have been closed at short notice whenever required. Local people have responded to appeals for the use of locations and the borrowing of vehicles and a boat. A number of local extras are involved, with some having to match a very specific person specification, for example a bearded, 6'2”, athletic male.

Further filming will take place in June and it's expected that the series will be seen in late 2015 or early 2016.

Writer Wins Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship

Shetland author Malachy Tallack has been awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship, entitling him to some quiet writing time in France.

Malachy, who is currently based in Glasgow, has written for the New Statesman, The Guardian, The Scottish Review of Books, Caught By the River and many other publications, online and in print. He won a New Writer's Award from the Scottish Book Trust in 2014 and his first book, Sixty Degrees North, will be published by Polygon in 2015.

He is also well established as a singer-songwriter. He has released four albums and an EP, and performed in venues across the UK. He is editor of the online magazine The Island Review, and co-editor of Fair Isle: Through the Seasons.

Malachy is one of four published writers to win one of the 2015 fellowships, which are awarded by the Scottish Book Trust and supported by Creative Scotland. Each will enjoy a month long residency in a self-catering apartment at the Hôtel Chevillon International Arts Centre at Grez-sur-Loing in France, together with all travel and a bursary of £300 per week. The location was chosen because of its connections with Robert Louis Stevenson, who first visited in 1875 and met his future wife, Fanny Osbourne, there.

During the residency, Malachy will be working on a novel set in Shetland, which he began late last year. He said:

"I'm absolutely delighted to receive an RLS Fellowship. It means a great deal to have the support of the Scottish Book Trust, and the chance to spend a month working solely on this project will be a huge boost towards completing the novel."

Robert Louis Stevenson had a Shetland connection, too. His grandfather, Robert, was responsible for the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head and in 1869, as a young man, he visited Muckle Flugga Lighthouse, off the island of Unst at Shetland's northern extremity. It had been built by his father, Thomas, and David Stevenson. It has been suggested that Stevenson used Unst as a template for the map in Treasure Island and there is certainly a passing resemblance.

Inspectors Give Positive Report On Primary School

The Skeld Primary School and Nursery Class continues to improve, after last year's report by HM inspectors.

A follow-up visit took place recently, after which inspectors described the children as showing a genuine enthusiasm for learning, with their achievements described as rich and varied. As a result, said inspectors, they are confident, responsible and respectful. Children who need extra help in their learning are supported very well, and inspectors say that nursery staff offer a broader range of learning experiences through Curriculum for Excellence.

In the original report, published last March, inspectors graded the education provided at Skeld Primary School in the primary classes as either "excellent" or "very good". They praised the curriculum for its many unique features, designed to meet the needs of the children and develop their skills of citizenship, creativity and enterprise.

This follow-up report highlights the improvements made in the nursery class since the original report, and makes it clear that the head teacher and nursery staff have demonstrated a commitment to improving the nursery class further. The Inspectors say that they are confident that the nursery team will focus on enabling the youngest children in the school to learn and achieve in the best way possible.

Vaila Wishart chairs the SIC's Education & Families Committee: “Well done once more to the Skeld Primary School and Nursery. The inspectors have obviously been impressed with the quality of the education provided there, and the support given to children.”

The latest inspection report for Skeld Primary School is available on the Education Scotland website.

Packed Programme For 2015 Shetland Nature Festival

The programme of events for the sixth Shetland Nature Festival offers an extraordinarily wide range of things to see and do.

The theme of light will be central to this year's Festival, linked to UNESCO's designation of 2015 as the International Year of Light, a global initiative which focuses on the importance of light and light based technologies for our lives, our future and the development of society. As the organisers point out, Shetland, with no proper darkness in summer, is an excellent place to pick up that theme.

A strong creative thread runs through the programme, with a week of workshops devoted to drawing and painting. Wildlife artist and Shetland Ranger Howard Towll will lead an introduction to drawing seabirds from life, by direct observation of the seabirds on the cliffs at Sumburgh Head.

Shetland artist Diane Garrick will lead classes in botanical drawing and watercolour painting from live plants. Diane's workshops will be complemented by sessions with herbal plant expert Amy Hardie, who will introduce herbs found abundantly in Shetland and show how to make salves with oil, flowers and beeswax. Festival-goers will also have the chance to learn to make their own nature journal with book-binder Lotte Kravitz.

The festival also looks forward to welcoming an artistic production by Edinburgh based arts agency Vision Mechanics. "Drift" is inspired by the true story of Betty Mouat, the Shetland crofter, who spent eight days drifting alone in the North Sea. Soundscapes and installations on the island of Unst will evoke the feeling of being adrift, isolated and unaided.

There will be plenty of opportunities to see Shetland from a whole new perspective with coasteering, snorkelling and climbing, led by experienced and enthusiastic guides. By popular demand, the education team from Edinburgh science centre Our Dynamic Earth is returning to the festival for the second year running and will be found at venues around the islands with a new range of activities to inspire, entertain and inform.

The festival also embraces two traditional favourites, the Noss National Nature Reserve Open Day and Sumburgh Head Open Day. All sorts of other opportunities are available too, ranging from guided geological walks in an extinct volcano and a former desert, spotting puffins, otters, bugs and moths, or exploring Shetland's woodlands at Kergord.

The festival runs from 4 – 11 July and you can see the whole programme online. Some events need to be booked in advance and booking opens on 11 May. If you're planning a reconnaissance trip to Shetland, this would be an excellent opportunity to see what the islands have to offer.

Shetland Leads Transnational Viking Project

Shetland Amenity Trust is to lead a major project that will celebrate Europe's Viking heritage and involve partners in 13 countries.

The Trust has been awarded €1.96 million from the European Union's Creative Europe Culture sub-programme for the project, “Follow the Vikings”. There are 14 full partners in Denmark, England, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Some of the 11 associate partners come from these countries but others are from Canada, France, the Isle of Man, Poland and Russia, as well as from our nearest neighbour, Orkney.

The four-year project will have a particular emphasis on creativity and culture; it will encompass the creation of a website and an international touring event. There will also be an emphasis on training volunteers at a local level and a programme to allow the exchange of skills, and strengthened professional links. All this will raise the visibility of the Council of Europe's Viking Cultural Route, managed by the Destination Viking Association of which Shetland Amenity Trust's General Manager, Jimmy Moncrieff, is the Chairman.

The touring event will take the form of a Viking roadshow visiting 12 Viking locations throughout Europe. It will include demonstrations of Viking crafts and arts, Viking games, and shows combining drama, poetry, stories, music, dance and re-enactment. Local participation and youth engagement will be an essential feature.

Jimmy Moncrieff, General Manager of Shetland Amenity Trust, said that he was “absolutely delighted” that the Trust had been successful in securing the funding on behalf of Viking colleagues. He continued:

“We and our partners have been working towards this for a number of years in order to make transnational Viking heritage more accessible and understandable to a worldwide audience. This is our fourth attempt to secure EU Culture funding support and this shows that a good project plus tenacity can ultimately succeed. We hope the project will contribute to maintaining and developing Europe as the number one global heritage tourism destination. The award is all the more gratifying as competition for funding was extremely intense with only 16 applications being approved from the 127 considered.”

District of the Month: Bressay and Noss

Each month, we visit a different part of Shetland to see what it has to offer for anyone thinking of making the move to our beautiful – and remarkably varied – islands. This month, we look at the island of Bressay and its smaller neighbour, Noss.

Bressay lies just east of the Shetland mainland, separated from it by Bressay Sound, which forms Lerwick's harbour, and it's just a seven-minute ferry ride from the town.

Much of the west of Bressay is low-lying, with some good agricultural land. The south and east is higher, heather moorland, rising to 226m (742ft) at the Wart of Bressay, the highest point, which was chosen as the site for Shetland's main television and radio transmitters. Much of the eastern and southern coastline is formed of cliffs. The island is mostly composed of old red sandstone which, in the past, was quarried for roof slates and flagstones.

Around 350 people live in Bressay; many of them work in Lerwick or elsewhere in Shetland but there is some local employment in agriculture, a fishmeal plant and tourism. The island no longer has its own primary school and island children travel to Lerwick. There is, however, a well-stocked shop and post office; a community hall that often hosts local events; and a heritage centre. Many locals have a boat in the marina and for landlubbers there's no shortage of interesting walking, with a range of historical and archaeological sites to explore.

Seen from the north or south, the island of Noss appears as a huge wedge on the horizon just east of Bressay. The two islands are separated by a narrow, shallow sound. Again, the land is lowest in the west and rises steadily to Shetland's most spectacular seabird cliffs. The island is a National Nature Reserve and isn't permanently inhabited, though two reserve wardens live in the old farmhouse during the summer.

So, why move to Bressay? It's a small but very welcoming community in a spectacular setting, with plenty to involve you, indoors or outdoors, right through the year. However, a short trip on a frequent ferry means that you can be in the heart of Lerwick in just a few minutes, so facilities such as the swimming pool, leisure centre, cinemas and shops are very easy to reach. For many people, that's an excellent combination. There's lots more about the island on our VisitShetland page.

Jobs on offer at NHS Shetland include vacancies for a salaried GP; a GP with a special interest in obstetrics; a Hospital Children's Nurse; a Salaried Dental Officer; a Biomedical Scientist; and an E-Health Programme Manager.

Vacancies with Shetland Islands Council include several posts for Social Care Workers; a Team Leader – Harbourmaster; an Assistant Insurance Officer; a Teacher of Craft, Design and Technology; a School Janitor; a Head Teacher at Cunningsburgh Primary School; and an Aerodrome Fire Officer at Tingwall Airport.

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

Gardeners are especially busy at this time of year and we have two gardening blogs this month. Our first is from Diane and Liam, who work at Lerwick's flower park, and the second, My Shetland Garden, is from our very own Misa Hay, whose day job is here at Promote Shetland.