February 2010 Newsletter
Here is our newsletter from February 2010. We hope you find it of interest. If you're considering a move to Shetland, please don't hesitate to contact us for more advice using either the contact details at the end of this newsletter or via the contact page on the website. To receive our monthly newsletters by email, please sign-up using the form in the left column.
Simon King, natural history presenter and Britain's best-known wildlife cameraman, is passionate about Shetland. As a boy, he was an admirer of Shetland naturalist Bobby Tulloch and – like so many others – was entranced by Hugh Miles" film about Shetland otters. He had the chance to visit Shetland in order to present Springwatch in 2006 and, two years later, he was back. This time, it was for an extended stay and he was accompanied by his wife, Marguerite Smits van Oyen – also a wildlife photographer - and their daughter Savannah, who, previews suggest, will be even more of a star than the puffins, seals and orcas.
The aim was to follow Shetland's seasons and to produce a filmed diary of their stay. The result – Simon King's Shetland Diaries – is in three hour-long chapters. In Radio Times, Simon writes of the "spectacular" summer. "There's almost permanent daylight, the sun is red, the sky is red, and last summer there were 15 days in a stretch when the sea was in this serene, halcyon state of calm". By contrast, the family also experienced the fiercest of winter storms. Entering into the life of the community, Simon joined in Up Helly Aa, the annual fire festival.
The first episode of what promises to be a very special series goes out on BBC2 at 8pm on Thursday 4 February, except for analog viewers in Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Celtic Connections Festival is Scotland's largest winter music event. Indeed, it's one of the largest folk and world music events to be found anywhere, running this year from 14 to 31 January and featuring more than 1,500 performers from thirty or more countries. Given Shetland's musical heritage, it's no surprise to find several of the isles" young musicians involved. Follow this link for more information about Celtic Connections.
There were two special highlights with strong Shetland connections. One was Nordic Tone, a musical journey that began in Shetland as a project at the 2009 Folk Festival. It featured young musicians from Shetland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. They had the opportunity to explore each other's musical cultures under the guidance of tutors from all five participating communities. Visit the Shetland Folk Festival website for more details of the Nordic Tone project.
The concert they gave in Glasgow has attracted great praise. A very warm review in The Scotsman called it "one of the hidden gems". Awarding five stars, reviewer Malcolm Jack wrote that the 25-strong group had obviously gone from strength to strength from the first appearance in Shetland. This, he said, "was as much a showcase of fresh and sophisticated playing as it was a fun lesson in the regional nuances of trans-Nordic folk". He added that it was "the happiest of performances, from an ensemble who have every reason to be smiling".
In The Herald's review of Nordic Tone, Rob Adams noted that the opening music, a bride's march from Shetland's most northerly island, Unst, "indicated immediately that this wasn't to be some glorified session". It showed "discipline, poise and a collective lightness of touch that was returned to often during a set that had plenty of outlets, too, for youthful exuberance, a big, robust orchestral sound, winsome individual singing and joyful chorusing."
Also capturing praise at Celtic Connections was "The Shetland Bus", a suite commemorating the dangerous World War II operation that supported the Norwegian resistance from bases in Shetland, initially using converted fishing boats. In particular, it marks the tale of Jan Baalsrud, a resistance worker who, with his colleagues, was betrayed shortly after landing in Norway. Despite being shot in the foot, he trekked for days across the snowfields, pursued by a Nazi search party, until he could find safety in neutral Sweden. Jan Baalsrud's extraordinary story is told in The Scotsman, and here's a link to more information about the Shetland Bus.
The suite has been composed by Bethany and Jenna Reid, two young Shetland musicians from the village of Quarff who have already made their names internationally both as solo performers and in the band, Filska. It features narration as well as music from fiddles, piano, pipes, flute, double bass and percussion.
Celtic Connections also festival included "Long Gone Lonesome", the musical drama performed by the National Theatre of Scotland, which we featured in our November 2009 newsletter. The play attracted the attention of BBC2's The Culture Show, which, on 21 January, included a report filmed in Shetland when the play was performed last year. It told the story of how Thomas Fraser, recovering in bed from polio, had listened to country music on the radio and collected records that seamen had brought home from America. A reserved, shy man, Fraser's remarkable musical talent wasn't properly appreciated until twenty years after his death, when his performances, recorded on a huge collection of reel-to-reel tapes, were rediscovered.
The well-known Shetland band, Fiddlers" Bid, is in the running for another award. This time, they've been nominated on the Spiral Earth website in the category of "Best Instrumental Album" of 2009 for their CD entitled "All Dressed in Yellow". As we were preparing this newsletter, the voting was very close, with the Monster Ceilidh Band's CD, "Make Me a Dancer", just ahead. By visiting the Spiral Earth Website, you can check the latest state of play, or indeed cast a vote for any of the bands. The poll closes on 12 February.
The oil industry in Shetland has had a relatively low profile of late. However, oil continues to arrive by pipeline or shuttle tanker at the Sullom Voe Terminal in the north mainland, from where large tankers carry it to ports all around the north Atlantic. The terminal is well out of the way of most local people in the isles and few tourists have more than a glimpse of it, screened as it is by surrounding hills. Service bases in Lerwick ship supplies to offshore installations, as they've done for almost four decades.
However, Shetland may see further activity as a result of an announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling. If endorsed by Parliament, his measures could provide up to £160 million worth of tax relief for each gas field in the West of Shetland region that qualifies for the support. The Treasury say that the area to the west of Shetland is the last major area of the UK Continental Shelf to be developed and that infrastructure will be critical to fully unlock the gas potential of the region. It is estimated that the area contains around 20% of the UK's remaining oil and gas reserves.
Shetland's young sportspeople continue to make their mark in national competitions. Christopher Rocks, whose sport is fencing, comes from the village of Brae in the isles" north mainland. He's just become the Scottish champion in épée. His brother Stephen also did well, taking fifth place in the sabre, and the family also have a rising star in younger sister, Sophie Rocks, who did well in the junior contest, notching up an 11th place in the épée and 21st in the foil. Another young competitor, Mhairi Gifford, gained 13th place in the sabre.
Meanwhile, three young netball players from Shetland will be heading to Northern Ireland in mid-March as part of the Scottish under-17 team. Emma Leask, Inga Woods and Sophie May Leyland impressed the Scottish coaches at trials and the three 16-year olds can now look forward to other major competitions.
The excellent indoor training facilities available in Shetland – the result of careful investment of oil funds in the 1980s and 1990s - are frequently praised by both local and visiting competitors in many disciplines.
Pre-school children have a new reason to visit the Shetland Museum and Archives. They've been invited join in free monthly sessions, each of which has a different theme, that will feature crafts, storytelling and music.
Twartee (two or three) words of explanation are needed here: in Shetland dialect, "Mootie Moose" means "tiny mouse" and "peerie" is the word for "small". According to Yvonne Reynolds, a Learning Assistant, Mootie Moose (the mascot for the sessions), "sniffs out the all best adventures and stories in the Museum and Archives. All bairns, from birth to school age, are invited to come along and become one of his peerie moose friends. He looks forward to meeting them and sharing all his tales!” Yvonne says that the children's love of the animals in the museum's displays led her to suggest that a mouse might be a good host for pre-school activities. The first session is built around pirates and mermaids.
Holders of credit cards in Shetland are least likely to find that their cards have been used fraudulently. Fraud prevention company The 3rd Man has published figures for fraud in postcodes across the UK, which show that Lerwick saw just 14 "bad transactions" in the year to August 2009, less than half the total recorded in the next lowest-scoring area, which was Kirkwall in Orkney. Both communities" numbers are dwarfed by the very much higher levels of fraud in areas such as south-east London, where "bad transactions" can make up between 1% and 3% of the total.
Jazz fans in Shetland – of whom there are many – have a date with one of Britain's leading jazz drummers on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 February, when Alyn Cosker and his quartet will be playing two concerts, one in Lerwick and the other in the village of Bigton, in the south mainland. Cosker hails from Ayr in south-west Scotland and is firmly established on the national jazz scene, having performed with, among others, Tommy Smith, Courtney Pine and Annie Ross. For the past four years, he's been drummer with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. Shetland audiences will no doubt give him a warm welcome; Alyn Cosker's website has more about him and his music.
Lerwick's Up Helly Aa is over for another year. It was, as always, a memorable night, with more than 800 torchbearing "guizers" streaming through the streets of the town. This year, for the first time, the event was available to viewers around the world on the internet. In an experiment, webcams at sites along the processional route and at the burning site provided live pictures of every stage of the event, from the dramatic light-up of torches to the Viking galley's spectacular demise. More than 1,700 computers connected to the server during the event, meaning that the number of internet spectators may well have run to three or four thousand.
The event was previewed in newspapers or on websites around the world; here's an example from Germany and this is one from India. Many photographers were present: some outstanding Up Helly Aa images are displayed on the Boston Globe's website.
Shetland's fine wool is universally admired and nowadays it can be found not only in the jumpers, scarves and shawls traditionally made in the islands but in newer products such as a range of high-quality carpeting in natural colours and a variety of rugs and throws. Now, the wool has made an appearance in the Café Restaurant at the Shetland Museum and Archives, in blinds designed by Angharad Mclaren. During a spell as weaver in residence at the Centre for Creative Industries in Yell, she had designed a scarf for the Museum and Archives shop. As Angharad explains: "The Shetland Amenity Trust liked my scarves so much they asked me to create blinds for the Café Restaurant. The design is inspired by the scarves as well as the colourful moors of the isles and influenced by Shetland's rich textiles heritage". The blinds also help to absorb sound, creating a quieter atmosphere.
In mid-January, more than 100,000 boating and yachting enthusiasts made the trip to ExCeL London to attend the Tullett Prebon London International Boat Show. As well as being able to inspect almost 1,000 boats, 450 people went diving, 320 tried canoeing and 2,500 raced model boats.
Among the attractions was the Shetland stand, which is a regular feature of the event. As in previous years, the Shetland team report great interest in the opportunities for sailing around the islands. One item in the display attracted a great deal of attention: our picture shows an amused visitor admiring a fender cover knitted in a traditional Fair Isle pattern by Violet McQuade.
Shetland is increasingly recognised as an attractive destination for cruising yachts, especially with the development of the many marinas that welcome seaborne visitors around the isles that are well-equipped to meet visitors" needs. The islands also host international yacht races each year, in particular the annual Shetland Races (from and to Norway). As we've previously reported, the Shetland Islands Council is lead sponsor of this year's Shetland Round Britain and Ireland Race. In 2011, Lerwick will again host the Tall Ships Races, an event featuring dozens of magnificent, classic vessels.
Someone who has recently made the move to the islands has put some practical advice about Shetland on her Shetland My Love blog. Abby has also posted many useful links of relevance to potential new residents.
We'd welcome any comments you have about this email, or about the Move.Shetland.org site. Also, if you have any enquiries at all about Shetland we'd be more than happy to assist you. Please contact us using any of the methods listed below.
Thank you again for taking the time to read this newsletter and please feel free to forward it to anyone else who may be interested in Shetland.
The Team at Shetland.org
Telephone us during office hours on: +44 (0)1595 744885
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Shetland Islands Council, Solarhus, North Ness, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0LZ, UNITED KINGDOM