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April 2015 Move Shetland Newsletter


Hi, I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to the April 2015 issue of our monthly newsletter.

One of the highlights of March in Shetland was, of course, the solar eclipse; with around 98% of the sun blocked by the moon, Shetland was one of the best places to see it and to experience the darkening of the morning sky. My local shop did an excellent trade in eclipse glasses and observers in many parts of the islands had good views. The event brought two cruise liners to Lerwick Harbour, on their way to the Faroe Islands, just 200 miles to the north-west, where the eclipse was total.

Lights dimmed a few days later, too, when – as in previous years – Shetland marked Earth Hour, the world's largest grassroots movement to take action for the planet against climate change. The floodlighting at Lerwick Town Hall and lighting at several other public buildings was switched off between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on Saturday 28 March. Many households switched off lights, too. In 2011, Shetland Islands Council was awarded the prize for the highest level of community support.

So, what's happening during the next few weeks? As I'll explain in a moment, there's lots of music to look forward to, but something very different takes place on the last weekend in the month, 25 and 26 April. It's the 28th annual Voar Redd Up, one of the biggest community events in the Shetland calendar and the biggest community-based spring-cleaning operation in the UK. Around 20% of the population volunteer for it; last year, 4,349 people were involved and devoted 18,500 hours to collecting almost 65 tonnes of rubbish from roadside verges, beaches and coastline. It really is an extraordinary event.

Music is at the heart of Shetland life and one of my personal highlights in March was a concert by the Shetland Community Orchestra; among other treats, their performance of Borodin's Polovtsian Dances, in which they were joined by Veev, a hugely impressive Shetland choir, was quite brilliant. If you're planning a reconnaissance visit to Shetland any time between now and June, you might consider tying it in with a concert or two. April's musical offerings include a visit by Dean Owens, one of whose performances is with the Whisky Hearts Band. Dean used to wow Shetland audiences when he played in the Felsons, and the roll-call for the new band includes a former Simple Minds drummer and, on bass, the nephew of the late Jack Bruce, formerly of Cream. They can be expected to raise the roof.

Looking ahead to May, the month kicks off with the Shetland Folk Festival, offering a plethora of musical delights; any remaining tickets are available through the festival website. In mid-May, Bruce Molsky will be back in Shetland to play three concerts. He is internationally recognised as possibly the world's most influential old-time fiddle player, a virtuoso of the timeless folk music traditions of North America and especially Appalachia. He's very much looking forward to what he says will be an "exciting and rewarding visit".

In June, we can look forward to jazz and world sounds, plus some poetry, in the JAWS Festival. It's a great programme that includes singer-songwriter Eddi Reader, saxophonist Tommy Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, the Criterion Jazz Band, Drum Explosion, Melanie Harrold, the Bevvy Sisters, Christine Tobin, Alex Cluness and Christine de Luca.

Tickets for most events (apart from the Folk Festival) are bookable through the Shetland Box Office.

There are many other reasons to consider a trip north in the next two or three months; in particular, it's a great time to explore Shetland's great outdoors. Getting astonishingly close to puffins at Sumburgh Head, or being amazed by the sight and sound of tens of thousands of seabirds at Noss, are just two of the highlights. But simply exploring the islands as the days lengthen towards the summer solstice is a treat in itself.

Lesley Makes Up Helly Aa History

School head-teacher Lesley Simpson made history when she became the first female Guizer Jarl to lead one of Shetland's fire festivals.

It may have been Friday 13th, but Lesley and her Jarl's Squad couldn't have been more fortunate with the weather. On a calm, starry night, her procession marched from the village of Bigton, where she lives, to the sandy tombolo (or "ayre") that connects Shetland's mainland with St Ninian's Isle, which is pictured (in daylight) alongside this month's feature on Dunrossness. It's a stunning setting for the burning of a longship and the many hundreds of spectators who turned out witnessed a spectacle they'll never forget. After the burning, the South Mainland Up Helly Aa party continued long into the night at five halls.

Assuming the persona of Aud the Deep Minded, a woman who features strongly in the Laxdæla and other sagas, Lesley was modest about her achievement; nevertheless, the choice of purple, green and white for the squad's costumes – colours long associated with women's emancipation – was entirely appropriate.

Women take part in all the Up Helly Aa squads in rural areas of Shetland. Only the Lerwick event – much the largest – has a male-only procession. It probably won't be long before Lesley is followed by another female Guizer Jarl.

Two New Books Tell Of Shetland's Part In WW1

Shetland Library, in partnership with Shetland Museum and Archives, is publishing two new books about the history of the First World War in Shetland.

"Safely Wounded" is a collection of Shetland wartime letters edited by Archives Assistant Angus Johnson and volunteer Isabel Sinclair. As Angus explains, it's a view of the war as seen by ordinary people caught up in it. “They're communicating, above all, that they're still alive and coping, trying to reassure and inform the folk at home”.

"Blockade 1914-1918" is by Museum Curator Ian Tait and includes the images and text from last year's exhibition on Shetland's strategic role during the war, as well as a new foreword by Ian. Dr Tait explained that “Curiously, the sea war is forgotten today: most people think of the First World War as trench warfare, but 70% of Shetlanders on war service were sailors or seamen. Britain's biggest asset was her colossal navy, and the greatest challenge Germany faced was our ability to cut off trade. Shetland was vital to the Allied strategy because the blockade force operated right here”.

Karen Fraser, Executive Manager of Shetland Library said: “We are keen to make these valuable new local history resources widely accessible. They will be supplied to our schools, colleges and libraries as well as being available to buy at an affordable price. We will also have some large format copies that readers can borrow from the Library.”

The books are being launched on 16 April and will be available for sale from the Museum, Library or Shetland Times Bookshop for £5 each.

Shetland Elects Two Members To Youth Parliament

The General Election may be dominating the headlines, but contests have also been taking place for the Scottish Youth Parliament.

Kelvin Anderson and Kaylee Mouat have been confirmed as the two successful local candidates. Five young people had stood in the elections to represent Shetland for the period June 2015 to June 2017. Returning Officer for Shetland Islands Council, Jan Riise made the declarations at Lerwick Town Hall, in the company of the candidates, their families, Councillors and invited guests.

The election to the parliament, in which there are 146 seats, took place on-line and young people aged between 12 and 26 were eligible to vote. In Shetland, 1,015 young people participated in the election, an increase in turnout of 14.3% over the previous contest in 2013.

Shetland Islands Council Convenor Malcolm Bell said: “Firstly, well done to all the candidates for standing in these elections and congratulations to Kelvin and Kaylee on their success. The Council fully supports the work of these young parliamentarians who work hard to raise the profile of issues affecting young people, both locally and nationally. We have already had a positive working relationship Kaylee, as one of the current MSYPs and we look forward to working with Kelvin now too.”

Shetland College UHI Marks Pass Rate Success

New figures show that Shetland College has performed better than the regional and national average in terms of student attainment.

The Scottish Funding Council has, for the first time, published performance indicators for further education (FE) courses at a regional level, as well as for each college across Scotland. Shetland College is one of the nine further education regional colleges which sit within the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The statistics for Shetland College show that 71.7% of full-time FE students completed their overall programmes, 5.6% more than in the region as a whole. 92.0% of part-time FE students completed their overall programmes, placing Shetland College 12.5% ahead of others in the region. The figures also indicated that, on longer courses, the Shetland students were a little older than average and much more likely to be female.

Peter Campbell, Chair of the College Board: “I am pleased at the high attainment rate for both full time and part time students at Shetland College. The most popular courses continue to be in Health and Care, where Further Education courses are also linked to a range of Higher Education courses, such as HNCs and degrees, across the UHI network. These new performance indicators are obviously helpful for us to see how Shetland College compares with other parts of the UHI network and we'll continue to strive to maintain these figures.”

European Erasmus Students Visit Shetland

Shetland schools" long tradition of maintaining strong international links was reflected in a recent visit to Brae High School by 28 students from four European countries.

The pupils, all aged 13 to 18 years of age, travelled to Shetland from schools in Turkey, Latvia, Sardinia and Norway. Accompanied by eight teachers, they spent a week in Shetland, learning about different aspects of life in the islands, including the fishing and oil industries, knitwear and textiles, coastal walks and Up Helly Aa.

The project has been funded by the European Erasmus+ programme, which aims to encourage staff and pupils to travel around Europe to experience life, culture and education in different countries. All participating countries lie on the fringes of Europe, and one of the themes of the visit was to explore what it means to be a young person living on the edge of the continent.

The pupils stayed with local families in the north mainland and many local businesses provided generous sponsorship for the visit, and assisted with the provision of transport, meals and tours of workplaces. Shetland Islands Council hosted a civic lunch reception at Lerwick Town Hall.

Council Convener, Malcolm Bell welcomed the visit and expressed the hope that the young people would experience some of the best that Shetland can offer. He added: “This type of youth exchange project provides a platform for innovative global education and encourages international understanding which helps to safeguard and improve all our futures.”

Singer Songwriters Will Feature In Showcase Concerts

More opportunities for Shetland's many singer-songwriters have opened up as a further three concerts have been added to the calendar.

Monthly sessions featuring singer-songwriters at Mareel, Shetland's new arts centre, are already well-established. Held in the café-bar, they're very informal and everyone is welcome, from seasoned performers to first-timers, and there's always an appreciative audience. However, Shetland Arts thinks there's a case for some ticketed concerts in which local performers can properly show the breadth and depth of their talent and develop their performing and writing skills.

The first concert will take place on Sunday 19 April and stars Lisa Ward, Sarah Thomson, and Matthew Adam. The others will follow on 12 July and 18 October.

Lisa Ward is the Shetland-based singer-songwriter who recently appeared on BBC's 'The Voice' as part of Sir Tom Jones' team. She has also supported Biffy Clyro and shared a stage with the Undertones. Her influences ranging from heavy metal and classic rock to traditional fiddle and her output, whether solo or in her band, Deathstar Canteen, is instantly recognisable. Her new EP, "Liminal", is just out.

Sarah Thomson plays regularly with Lisa in Deathstar Canteen and with Matthew and his band. However, she's a notable performer in her own right, performing her original singer-songwriter material in an ethereal vocal style accompanied by beautifully dark rhythm guitar. Sarah is also popular as a session musician.

Matthew Adam has often performed at the singer-songwriter nights and elsewhere. Drawing influence from folk, rock and metal, Matthew's voice has a soulful quality. He's played with his own band and other local musicians, as well as with Virginian singer-songwriter, Devon Sproule.

Lisa said: “The wonderful thing about the Singers & Songwriters" Group, and the monthly nights in Mareel, has been seeing all the writers and performers come out of the woodwork, showcase their talent, and grow in confidence with each performance. I think adding some regular concerts to the mix is a fantastic idea and will just add to the growth of the already popular group and its appreciative audience.”

Shetland Joins International Geopark Project

Shetland's intriguing geology, the basis for recognition as a Geopark, will feature in a new international project that involves partners from Canada to Russia.

Geopark Shetland has worked closely with Scotland's North West Highlands Geopark and aspiring Lochaber Geopark on the bid for what's called the "Drifting apart" project, which is led by the Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust (Northern Ireland). The value of the Scottish budget is €250,000 over three years, which will meet 65% of the cost. In real terms, this means that each Scottish Geopark will receive approximately €50,000 to spend on interpretation and education.

Other partners are Magma Geopark (Norway); Stonehammer Geopark (Canada); Marble Arch Caves Geopark (Northern Ireland/Ireland); Reykjanes Aspiring Geopark, Saga Aspiring Geopark and Katla Geopark (Iceland); and Kenozero National Park (Russia).

The partners will work together to interpret and promote the interconnected geological heritage of the Northern Periphery and Arctic region, and its many links to natural, built and cultural heritage. A transnational geological trail will tell the geological story and open up tourism, education, and economic and social development opportunities. The Scottish Geoparks will focus on creating a range of educational assets.

Geopark Shetland's project officer Robina Barton said she was “absolutely thrilled” that the Shetland Geopark has secured the funding offered by the project. She continued:

“Over the past eighteen months we have collaborated with project partners at meetings of the European and Global Geoparks networks and via Skype to develop the project, clearly demonstrating the value of being a part of this dynamic network. We are also excited to be working closely with our fellow Geoparks on the Scottish mainland to raise the profile of Scotland's amazing geology on an international stage.”

District of the Month: Dunrossness

Every month, we look at what each district in our islands can offer for new residents. This month, we visit Dunrossness.

Shetland's south mainland is a finger of land extending for more than twenty miles southwards from Lerwick, but not much more than three miles wide. Dunrossness is the southernmost section.

The landscape is dramatic; Sir Walter Scott passed this way and set a novel, The Pirate, here. On both the Atlantic and North Sea coasts there are precipitous cliffs and glorious beaches, above which - over much of the area – the land rises steeply to a central ridge of moorland. Dunrossness has some of Shetland's most appealing coastal scenery and the sand and shingle tombolo linking St Ninian's Isle to the mainland is the most impressive of its kind in Europe. The southern part of the district and some of its fringes are lower-lying and there is good agricultural land, known for producing a range of crops – especially potatoes – and supporting dairy farms.

The area also boasts several of Shetland's most celebrated archaeological sites, including the multi-period settlement at Jarlshof and the more recently-excavated Old Scatness. At Sumburgh Head, the cliffs offer possibly the easiest opportunities for close encounters with puffins to be had anywhere. The restored lighthouse – with an excellent visitor centre – is a popular destination for visitors and locals.

With all of these magnets, it's no surprise that there are several hotels, guest houses or B&Bs in the area, and their trade is boosted by the presence of the district's main employer, Sumburgh Airport. It handles all Shetland's scheduled flights and many oil-related services, so there are opportunities in baggage handling, catering, air traffic control and other services. There are some jobs in other sectors, too, including farming, crofting and crafts.

No part of Dunrossness is much more than about half an hour by car from Lerwick, on a good road, and the bus service also allows people commute to work in the town or use its shops and services. However, the district has its own local shops, together with a doctor's surgery and care home. There is a junior secondary school and a modern swimming pool at Sandwick, just a little to the north. Older school students attend the Anderson High School in Lerwick.

The community in "Da Ness", as locals call it, is just as active as others in Shetland – which is to say, very active! Boating and sailing are popular in summer but the Ness Boating Club is also a year-round venue for all kinds of events and there are community halls, too.

With some fantastic beaches and wonderful cliff scenery, not to mention great bird-watching and sea-angling, Dunrossness appeals to outdoors enthusiasts, but it's also a welcoming community with lots going on. It offers a unique bonus, too, in the form of a very short drive to or from the airport when travelling farther afield. If you're thinking of making the move to Shetland, there are good reasons to include this area in your search.

Jobs of the Month

Jobs on offer at NHS Shetland include vacancies for a Radiographer; an Administration Supervisor; an Administration Assistant; a Procurement Officer; Chefs; a Senior Staff Nurse/Deputy Charge Nurse; a Salaried GP; and a Senior Anaesthetic/Recovery Nurse Practitioner/Operating Department Practitioner.

Vacancies with Shetland Islands Council include posts for a Senior Social Care Worker; Social Workers; a Housing Officer; a teacher of Primary on the island of Foula; a Solicitor; an Electrician; a Joiner; an Assistant Assessor; a Trainee Valuer; and Teachers of Technical and Art and Design.

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

Blog of the Month

Shetland's textile heritage is ever-present in the islands, whether in the Fair Isle jumpers that many people wear, the innovative designs produced by talented young designers or the astonishingly fine lacework that can be seen in some retail outlets or in the Shetland Museum collection.

A recent development is Shetland Wool Week, which has attracted knitting enthusiasts from far and wide. Buoyed by its success, the organisers have decided to offer a six-day wool holiday in July. Our blog this month explains what's planned, but you can also catch up with all the other news about wool in Shetland.

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