September 2008 Newsletter

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

Jean-Christophe Novelli Tops Food Festival Bill

The man described as 'Britain's favourite French chef' will appear as special guest at Shetland's first Food Festival, which takes place from Friday 3 October to Sunday 12 October. M. Novelli [http://www.jeanchristophenovelli.com/] has collected a clutch of Michelin stars over his career. He hails from Arras, in northern France, and worked as private chef to the Rothschilds in Paris before coming to Britain at the age of 22. He ran Keith Floyd's restaurant during Mr Floyd's absence on filming assignments.

By the late 1990s, he was dividing his time between seven restaurants in London, France and South Africa. Latterly, he has concentrated on running a cookery school and he owns two gastro pubs, with plans to open more. He has made many television appearances on programmes ranging from Saturday Cooks to Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

The final programme for the Shetland Food Festival will be available soon and you can find out more at http://www.shetlandfoodfestival.com/. As well as demonstrations by leading chefs, including M. Novelli and Masterchef George McIvor, there will be various workshops and talks, including a number of short courses covering everything from vegetable-growing to beekeeping. Films will feature too, including Babette's Feast and Ratatouille. There will be food tasting sessions and several local restaurants will have special menus.

Unique Partnership Supports Seaside Awards

At the beginning of June, four of Shetland's most picturesque beaches achieved a Seaside Award from Keep Scotland Beautiful, becoming the first island group in Scotland to so do. Shetland gained three new awards in 2008, for the Sands of Breckon on Yell, Tresta Sands on Fetlar and West Voe Sands at Virkie. St. Ninian's Isle at Bigton retained its award for the second year running. All Seaside Award winners must be well managed and have to meet the standards of the EU Bathing Water Directive. Where there are facilities, they must be of a good standard. Excellent litter management is also required. Adequate information has to be provided and proper safety measures must also be in place.

Keep Scotland Beautiful has invited representatives from the Shetland Islands Council and Community Councils to give a workshop to other Local Authorities and delegates at the Scottish Beach Conference, in St. Andrews on September 15 2008. Shetland representatives will talk about the unique managing partnership between the SIC and Community Councils for the four beaches that won Seaside Awards. All the award-winning beaches with descriptions, directions, facilities and pictures feature on Keep Scotland Beautiful's web site, http://www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org/.

Hnefatafl All The Rage In Fetlar

An ancient Viking board game has been making a comeback on the island of Fetlar. The game, which is mentioned in the Norse sagas, is called Hnefatafl and Fetlar recently staged the 'quickplay' world championship. The game bears a passing resemblance to chess, in that the object is to capture your opponent's king. The winner of the tournament was Wendy Sutherland, who hails from the East Riding of Yorkshire. She becomes one of just two Grand Masters, the other being the organiser of the tournament, Fetlar man Peter Kelly.

Allotments May Offer Opportunity For Frustrated Gardeners

Shetland Islands Council is inviting anyone interested in renting an allotment to get in touch. Although allotments are a feature of life in many cities, they're not so common in rural areas. However, the Council reckons that there may be interest in Shetland, and in Lerwick particularly, from people who live in flats or whose gardens are too small to do much in the way of vegetable growing. The proposal is very much in line with efforts to encourage local food production and reduce food miles.

Foodies at the Festival

Shetland's presence at this year's Edinburgh Festival was highly successful, according to staff of the Council's Economic Development Service who attended an event called 'Foodies at the Festival' in the city's Sheraton Hotel. Neil Henderson, Principal Marketing Officer, said: "We were there mainly to promote the Shetland Food Festival and the Shetland Food Directory, but we had many conversations about other aspects of life in the islands. We also made some very useful contacts, which we've been following up."

Visitors to the stand clearly enjoyed the delicious canapés; there was an organic smoked salmon roulade on a tiny tattie scone; tender Shetland lamb with either a peach compôte or a mint hummus dip; and scallop with an apple and fennel salad on a seawater oatcake. Shetland beers were available to taste, too, and they went down very well.

Cherry Lee Mewis Is Star Of Blues Festival

Shetland's annual Blues Festival is well-established and draws local and visiting blues fans in growing numbers. This year's event featured local players and singers alongside a number of visiting bands. Shetland Youth Jazz, singer Erin Sandison from Scalloway, lively blues-rockers Jamieson's Big Pockets and young virtuoso saxophonist Norman Wilmore were among those demonstrating the depth of local talent. Among the visiting players, guitarist Steve Phillips, harmonica player Paul Lamb and Thurso's After Hours R&B revue all made a big impression on those who heard them. However, audiences and critics were bowled over by the diminutive, 23-year old Welsh singer, Cherry Lee Mewis, who was being compared to Janis Joplin and Norah Jones. She had a confident stage presence and a great rapport with the audience, but it was her singing and her fresh take on the blues that really impressed. The unanimous verdict was that she's definitely one to watch.

Quality Management Impresses In Step Awards

A St Andrews University student who established a quality management system in Shetland's largest building firm has won an award in the Shell Step scheme. The scheme, which offers work placements during summer vacations, has local and national heats; Nigel Mycock, who is in his third year on an electronic engineering course, picked up the £250 cash prize in the Shetland heat after making a presentation at the Shetland Museum and Archives. His project involved setting up the ISO 9001 system in construction company DITT. Nigel now faces national competition in Edinburgh, early next month.

A Feast Of Film

The first weekend in September saw Shetland's annual film festival, Screenplay, running alongside the islands' literary festival, Wordplay. This year, films include Local Hero, Peter and the Wolf, The Searchers, 101 Dalmations and The Vanishing. There was also a great deal of interest in new work by young local film makers. BBC film critic, Mark Kermode, is one of the curators of the festival. Meanwhile, Shetland Film Club has announced its winter programme, which kicks off with Mike Leigh's Happy Go Lucky. Other highlights among the 16 screenings include The Kite Runner, Into The Wild, Caramel and Lust, Caution.

Foula Electricity Scheme

The island of Foula, the second most remote in the Shetland archipelago after Fair Isle, has a new electricity system. The scheme combines wind, hydro, photovoltaic and diesel power to bring a more reliable supply to the thirty or so residents on the island. The scheme has been several years in planning and construction and, because Foula is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, special attention had to be paid to ensuring that the project had minimal impact on the wildlife of the island.

Bressay Burnt Mound

The island of Bressay has attracted many visitors this summer to see the re-creation of a 'burnt mound'. These mounds, which are found in many places in Shetland, are composed of stones that were heated in a fire and then used to warm water in stone tanks. It's not entirely clear how our prehistoric ancestors made use of the tanks, but it is possible that they were employed to cook food, or even as saunas. Experiments suggest that bringing water up to simmering temperature would have involved a lot of effort and many stones. There's more about the Bressay project at http://www.shorewatch.co.uk/cruester/project.html.

Peerie Willie Guitar Festival

Guitarist 'Peerie' Willie Johnson was a legend in his own lifetime, his guitar style winning admirers world wide. Now, the annual Peerie Willie Guitar Festival pays tribute to the man and his work. This year's event runs from 18 to 21 September, with concerts in Lerwick, Mid Yell and Bigton. Its eclectic line-up includes some exceptional musicians: Martin Taylor, Cecilia Zabata, Andy Sheppard, Miguel de la Bastide, Redmond O' Toole, Alison Burns, Brian Nicholson and Maggie Adamson.

The Sunshine Islands

Shetland topped the UK sunshine tables in August, recording more than 153 hours of sunshine during a month in which most parts of the UK enjoyed fewer than 100 hours. A Meteogroup forecaster, John Hutchinson, explained that areas of low pressure had affected the rest of the UK, but that Lerwick had been 'above all the bad weather'. He added: 'Shetland really has been fizzing above the gloom and rain that has been affecting everywhere else.' Locals certainly made the most of the fine weather, with barbecues and beach trips particularly popular.