October 2008 Newsletter

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Here is our newsletter from October 2008. To receive our monthly newsletters by email, please sign-up using the form in the left column.

Food Festival Builds Foundation for the Future

Organisers of Shetland's first Food Festival believe they have a success on their hands. The first few days of the festival, which is sponsored by a number of firms and organisations including EventScotland, drew crowds to Lerwick's Clickimin Centre and to events in other parts of the isles. Over the opening weekend, "Britain's favourite French chef", Jean-Christophe Novelli, and former Chair of the Masterchefs of Great Britain, George McIvor, gave demonstrations. Along with several local chefs, they kept audiences well entertained. A producers" market occupied the main hall at Clickimin and there were tastings of local food organised by Slow Food Edinburgh member, Trevor Laffin. Elsewhere, there have been talks, courses on food-related topics, foodie films, music, storytelling and much else. Many local eateries have put on special menus to help celebrate Shetland food.

There's been considerable interest from the national media, with mentions by, among others, Terry Wogan in his Radio 2 show. Simon Parkes of The Food Programme on BBC Radio 4 recorded interviews with several local producers on a variety of topics. Matthew Fort, food and drink editor of the Guardian and a presenter on UKTV Food's Market Kitchen, has also been in the islands gathering material for articles and programmes. Scottish Television has been recording features, too.

Great Response to Allotments Proposal

As we reported last month, the Shetland Islands Council has been inviting interest in the development of allotments. The response has been very encouraging. To date, over eighty requests for allotments from all over Shetland have been received, including some from educational establishments and social care groups. By far the largest number has come from the Lerwick area with some fifty families and groups already being interested in growing their own vegetables. The main reasons given for wanting to rent an allotment were lack of access to a growing area, the rising costs of food and an increasing awareness of the need to eat healthily. There will now be a series of meetings around Shetland to decide how best to take the project forward.

Better Connection to Norway Next Summer

From June until August 2009, Loganair (operating on behalf of FlyBe) will run three return services each week between Shetland and Bergen. The flights proved very popular last year, carrying nearly 1,400 passengers on the Saab 340 aircraft that are the mainstay of routes in the Highlands and Islands. The flight time is around an hour and the service will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Shetland has strong historical links with Norway and, over recent decades, there has usually been either an air service or a shipping service, or both, during the summer months.

Excavation Of Böd Should Reveal Hanseatic Secrets

Following on the success of this year's Johnsmas Foy, which took as its theme the Hanseatic trade that used to link Shetland with ports in northern Germany and other places around the North Sea, an old Hanseatic trading booth has been excavated. The Hanseatic traders operated all around the Shetland coastline; Hagrie's Böd, at Gunnister in Northmavine, is just one of many sites that they established. It was operated by Simon Harriestede and he bought fish there during the late sixteenth century. Local historian Brian Smith, the Shetland Archivist, has welcomed the excavation as a way of throwing light on a period about which a great deal is still unknown.

Whales, Otters, Seals, Hares and Hedgehogs: But Foxes?

Shetland has a wealth of wildlife but, officially, there are no foxes in the islands. However, a sight all too familiar in the rest of the UK greeted one motorist recently in Shetland's north mainland, namely a fox that had been hit by a car. The animal has been sent off for a post-mortem examination, which may help establish what it had been eating and possibly provide a clue to where it had been living. This isn't the first time that a fox has turned up in Shetland. Exactly the same thing happened around 15 years ago but, in that instance, the accident was preceded by a number of sightings of a live animal. Theories circulating in the islands involve a fox being deliberately released or managing to stow away on a Shetland-bound ferry.

Rare Birds Attract Autumn Migration of Birders

Shetland is a great place to watch birds and at this time of year the focus is very much on the autumn migration, when huge numbers of migrants pass through the isles. However, no Shetland autumn would be complete without a few rarities, so bird-watchers – local and visiting – are always kept busy, following up the latest sightings.

New Cinema And Music Venue A Step Closer

The money needed to build the islands" new cinema and music venue, called "Mareel", is now in place and work should start on the site before the end of the year. The building will occupy a site on Lerwick's waterfront, close to the new Shetland Museum and Archives, in an area that has seen carefully-planned regeneration over the last ten years or so. Although current films and older classics are regularly shown in the Garrison Theatre, the need for a properly-equipped modern cinema has been keenly felt since Lerwick's original cinema, the North Star, ceased operation some years ago. Mareel will have a large and a small cinema and will also offer a high-quality concert hall capable of holding up to 500 people and versatile enough to cope not only with any sort of musical performance but with other kinds of events, too. There will also be educational facilities and state-of-the art recording and editing suites.