Packed Programme For 2015 Shetland Nature Festival

by Alastair Hamilton -

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.

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