Promote Shetland’s fiery start to the year!

by Promote Shetland -

January in Shetland means vikings. It’s the beginning of the Up Helly Aa season, and the webcast from Lerwick of perhaps the planet’s greatest winter fire festival, has become one of the highlights of the year for watchers worldwide - despite 2016 having barely begun!

For the sixth year running the spectacular evening procession went out live on Promote Shetland’s 60 North TV service - this time to over 14,000 people in 78 countries.

“This year we have exceptionally detailed viewing figures of the live stream, said Head of Brand Strategy Andy Steven, “and we’ve been thrilled by not only the number of viewers but also the amount of time each person stayed watching on the live stream. During the evening procession 14,392 unique viewers watched for average time of 48 minutes 33 seconds. This shows us that nearly everyone that tuned in watched the entire broadcast.”

As it does for every Up Helly Aa, anticipation had been building for months and this is only increased by the fact that the broadcast is a live stream only, with no opportunity to replay it.

The live webcast appeals not only to our expats, but also to people who have never been to Shetland before. The top five countries that joined us online were the United Kingdom (75 percent); United States of America (nine percent); Canada ( three percent); Australia (two percent) and New Zealand (one percent).

Associated Press Television News (APTN) also carried the stream globally and having the ability to directly provide an international news gathering agency with the live production takes the event to another level of exposure and is a major achievement for the Promote Shetland team.

Mr. Steven said: "We also welcomed viewer participation through our social media channels and we were amazed by the response we received. On Facebook our posts reached an impressive 257,000 people, with 30,500 impressions on Twitter and we received 355 direct messages on our discussion board."

I'm very proud to say that we worked with a fantastic technical and creative production crew with our youngest camera operator aged only 13. It is great to have so much talent in Shetland and be able to give young people an opportunity to be involved in a production of this scale.

A warm and woolly time in New York City

The spectacular and continuing success of Shetland Wool Week has illustrated the importance of the American market when it comes to knitting and island textiles generally. So it was strategically important for Shetland to be represented at perhaps the biggest and most prestigious knitting show in the world - January’s Vogue Knitting Live.

Four of those most intimately involved in Wool Week, - Donna Smith, the event’s patron in 2015, Carol Christiansen of Shetland Museum, with Kirsty Halcrow and Misa Hay from Promote Shetland - travelled to New York where they had a booth at the exhibition.

“It was a risk,” admitted Misa, “but we discovered that more and more Americans have been coming to the event, and we sold over half of the entire Wool Week Annual’s print run to the USA. We took 2000 copies of a leaflet about Wool Week which included the pattern for Donna’s now-legendary Baa-ble hat, and they were all handed out. We reckon to have spoken to about 2500 folk over the two and a half days of the event.”

Some of those attending apparently screamed with delight when they saw the Fair Isles knitwear on display at the Shetland booth, and folk were sometimes five-deep around the stall trying to talk to the isles representatives. Many serious enquiries about attending future Wool Weeks were made and Misa said she was delighted with the response.

There’s a real buzz about Shetland knitting

Wool Week 2015 patron Donna Smith could be seen in New York knitting at the stall and actually using a (Shetland-made) makkin belt, which intrigued and excited many visitors. And her design for the official 2015 Shetland Wool Week Baa-ble hat has clearly captured American imaginations. It was the most queued pattern on the craft textiles social network site Ravelry in 2015 and according to Donna, could even be seen on the heads of folk in Times Square!

“A lot of the folk we spoke to had already made the hat or had heard about it, and you could see them wearing it. It was quite surreal. It’s amazing to think it’s so popular there on the other side of the world.”

“People were actually queuing up to get Donna to sign the pattern,” said Misa, “and showing her pictures of projects they’d undertaken. We could never have hoped for such an incredible response - we’re really pleased and proud. ”

Many enquiries were received about buying local yarn and other Shetland products, and it is hoped that some isles businesses could go to New York next year and exhibit at Vogue Knitting Live.

Good medicine

In collaboration with NHS Shetland, Promote Shetland has been heavily involved in a recruitment drive for medical staff. This has centred during January on the production of a video showing the work of a rural general practitioner, Doctor Susan Bowie, who works in Northmavine on the Shetland Mainland.

NHS Shetland has received various enquiries about medical vacancies since the video went live on the shetland.org site. You can watch it here: http://www.shetland.org/discover/live-here/health

An article about Dr Bowie also appeared in The Guardian newspaper during January as well as in the winter edition of 60 North Magazine, which is available here. You can also take out a subscription to the quarterly, full-colour print publication, which features the best work of Shetland’s writers and photographers.

The winter edition includes articles on the Shetland Food Fair, Shetland Wool Week and the crime writing festival Shetland Noir, as well as more of Tom Kidd’s fantastic pictures of Shetland in the 1970s, natural history and a what’s on feature. It’s a ‘must read’!

‘Digital tourism’ contract won

Promote Shetland has just been awarded a contract by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to deliver the ‘Digital Tourism Scotland’ programme in Shetland. This aims to encourage the local tourism industry to fully exploit the various online and digital marketing and business development opportunities open to them.

Courses, workshops, surgeries, awareness-raising events, conferences, lectures and meetings, both virtual and ‘on the ground’, will be available over the coming year, ranging from ‘beginners’ internet’ to more advanced instruction on how to increase custom and profits using the internet and social media.

The initiative will also provide a local online gateway, providing information and support for Shetland companies and individuals engaged in tourism related activities. The programme aims to help tourism businesses understand and engage better with visitors via websites and social media, promote their destinations and their business more effectively, develop new tourism products and draw more visitors to the isles for longer.