Creative learning opportunities at Mareel

by Alex Garrick-Wright -

Music and arts are an intrinsic part of Shetland’s cultural heritage, but there’s far more to it than just world-class fiddle playing and artisan knitwear. The breadth of opportunity for people of any age to study the creative arts is impressive, and each year more and more students enrol in the film and music courses available through Mareel, Shetland’s multi-million pound arts venue.

As well as a two-screen cinema, exhibition space, concert venue, recording studio and popular café-bar, Mareel also hosts courses from Vocational Pathway up to degree level in film and music, taught by experienced lecturers and delivered in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Island opportunities

Keiba Clubb, who teaches the Vocational Pathways and NC level courses in Film, as well as running her own successful film production company, told Promote Shetland about the opportunities that studying in the isles affords:

“Teaching this course has really inspired me to love film again, maybe more than I did, even though I was working in the industry full-time. I’ve been so inspired by the students; having people who want to geek out on films, talk about cinematography. I’m sort of re-learning a lot of the skills I learnt… It’s great to have that community of creative people to delve into and inspire each other, and continue to grow.”

Bryan Peterson, head of creative opportunities at Shetland Arts, said that embracing technology has allowed Shetland to thrive as a centre of artistic learning and development: “We’ve delivered modules from here to students in Sao Paolo, Switzerland, Paisley… Because everything’s networked, essentially folk log-in to a central point where our teaching materials are, and we all communicate via video conferencing.

“One of our students is from Yell but he tunes in from a sailing boat in the middle of the sea. The traditional barrier of the sea doesn’t really matter anymore. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Brae, or Whalsay, or Sao Paolo; you can access the same stuff and the same experiences.”

Work experience

In addition to easy access to learning, the courses offered by Mareel have an edge over those offered elsewhere; they’re taught by working professionals in their fields, in an active and busy arts venue.

“A lot of the folk delivering our courses are working professionals,” Bryan explained. “Keiba, for example, she runs her own film production company and lectures part time. Same with Simon [Clarke], he works professionally in marketing. Carol, one of our music tutors, she’s a professional working musician as well.

“So, it’s the beauty of us being an organisation that’s already engaged with a lot of different freelancers; we can pull in guest lecturers, and it’s really flexible. I think it really does provide a well-rounded experience for the students; they’re actually getting a feel for the hustle of working in the real world, rather than just from books.”

Having the courses taught in Mareel is a huge bonus. Students are able to experience first-hand the reality of their chosen field. Whether it’s access to the state-of-the-art recording studio, or having the chance to get their film shown on the big screen to a cinema audience, the opportunities available to students in Mareel just can’t be found anywhere else.

Signing up to a course

With courses being open to students of any age, experience and ability, each year’s intake is totally unique. This, Bryan said, is one of its key strengths – the variety of different interests and skills brings new challenges and opportunities each year:

“Possibly my favourite thing about the music course, is at the beginning of the year it’s such a varied group of students; all different levels of skill, all different types of instruments. Some people don’t play traditional instruments, they’ve maybe come from doing musical production on their computer, or being DJs or something, so you don’t have to be a Grade 9 pianist to come on the course.

“And every year the class has its own dynamic. It’s a really supportive environment and that’s lovely to see that dynamic developing as the year goes on. And there’s a lot of firm friendships developed out of the time they spend here.”

If you’re interested in getting involved, at any level from Vocational Pathway up to a degree in Film or Music, then visit the Shetland Arts website for more information.

Posted in: News, Creative Scene

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