July 2012 Move Shetland Newsletter
Hello, I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to our July newsletter.
Though it's been many years since I moved to Shetland, I'm still struck by these endless days that we enjoy at this time of year, when the sun dips below the horizon for little more than five hours and there's no proper night, just what we call the 'simmer dim', or summer twilight. It's hard to convey this exactly in a photograph, not least because computer monitors vary in brightness, but I hope this shot, looking south-east from my house, is a fair representation of how much light there is between roughly 11.30pm and 2.30am, by which time it starts to brighten again. Looking north, of course, there's simply an unfinished sunset.
Over in St Petersburg, which is on the same latitude, they call these the 'white nights'. In Shetland, we react by engaging in a programme of activities that's even more hectic than during the rest of the year. A recent issue of the Shetland Times included an eight-page supplement on summer diversions spanning coasteering, parkour, rugby and fashion design, among much else. There are dozens of community events, including the wonderful Sunday teas that are held up and down the islands, which featured on BBC Radio 4's Food Programme. In a few days, the Shetland Nature Festival kicks off, offering everything from a walk on a sub-arctic landscape to making a butterfly feeder. Looking much farther ahead, details are now available of this year's Shetland Wool Week in October, which - if you have an interest in Shetland's wonderful heritage of woollen textiles - might be a perfect excuse for a reconnaissance visit.
Talking of heritage, I recently took a proper look around the spacious new Scalloway Museum now that all the excitement of the opening is past. Even so, there were a good few visitors around. It's a splendid place to while away an hour or two, with a high standard of presentation. Naturally enough, it chronicles the history of the village, and very engagingly, too. However, the highlight for many visitors will be the moving story of the heroic wartime Shetland Bus operation, now told in painstakingly-researched detail.
The Scalloway Museum is just one of more than a dozen community museums in Shetland, all run by local history groups. They're just one manifestation of the volunteering tradition that's such a feature of life in the islands and they also say a lot about the pride that people take in their local heritage and traditions.
As always, we recommend that, if you're thinking of settling in Shetland, you should make a couple of trips at different times of year in order to see if this is the place for you. We've all the information you need for planning a trip at visit.shetland.org and there's a brilliant newsletter, written by my colleague Abby, with all the latest information for visitors, including details of even more forthcoming events.
Shetland Gains Top TripAdvisor Awards
Three of the Certificates of Excellence awarded by Internet travel giant, TripAdvisor, have come to Shetland.
The Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick secured two certificates, one for the museum itself and one for Hay's Dock Café Restaurant. Six miles away, in the village of Scalloway, the Scalloway Hotel's restaurant also received a certificate.
Shetland Museum and Archives has a five-star rating and is listed as the top visitor attraction in Lerwick, with Hay's Dock receiving 4.5 stars. Cathy Moseley from Birmingham commented: 'If you are ever in Shetland, do not miss this amazing museum, it just shows how the history of a place can be explained in such an interesting, interactive way, appealing to all ages, and a wonderful café to round up the visit'.
A London visitor praised the café restaurant: 'We ate three times in Hay's Dock Cafe Restaurant in May - one lunch and two dinners. This was our third visit to Shetland since this wonderful museum and its associated restaurant opened. Everything we ordered was delicious and the staff were friendly and attentive. Food is fresh, local and put together with imagination. A highlight of a Shetland visit and definitely worth travelling up from London for!'
Over in Scalloway, hotel owners Peter and Caroline Mackenzie say they're 'delighted' to receive the certificate. They've worked hard to refurbish the hotel since taking it over in 2008; for example, it now features a Shetland bedroom featuring locally-made furniture and Shetland wool carpeting. The restaurant that gained the certificate has built an excellent reputation.
An Inverness-based traveller wrote: 'Superb food - seafood and meat dishes alike. Very attentive and helpful staff. Well worth a visit any night of the week!' Someone from Leeds said: 'We had an excellent mid-week evening meal here - possibly the best meal of our 2 week holiday in Shetland (and there was some tough competition)'. A Cardiff visitor said that the food was 'very high quality and reasonably priced.'
You can read all the TripAdvisor reviews of the Scalloway Hotel restaurant here .
Shetland Mussels Achieve Marine Stewardship Council Certification
Mussels from Shetland, which increasingly feature on menus in Britain and farther afield, have won Marine Stewardship Council recognition for their sustainable and environmentally responsible manner of cultivation.
The recognition follows a rigorous 18 month independent assessment, which examined all aspects of the production cycle and the techniques employed.
The mussels grown in Shetland begin life as free-swimming larvae, also referred to as spat, which settle on rope lines suspended in open water. They then grow naturally by feeding on plankton carried by the rich tidal flows found around the islands, so there is no adverse environmental impact.
Ruth Henderson, chief executive of Seafood Shetland, said: 'We are delighted at this significant development for the Shetland industry, which is worth £5.3m to the local economy. Our mussel farming industry has been built on its outstanding reputation for quality, with 4,567 tonnes produced in 2011, representing 65 per cent of Scottish production.'
Olympic Torch Draws Crowds
The Olympic Torch visited Lerwick on 10 June and the day's events were, by common consent, hugely successful. It helped that the weather was dry and sunny, too.
The flame - safely enclosed within a Davy Lamp similar to those once used by miners - was flown to Shetland and taken to Lewick, where twenty torchbearers carried it in relay around the town. The final stage of the journey involved a trip on a Shetland sixareen (a traditional six-oared boat) across the loch in which the iron-age Clickimin Broch stands. It was a colourful sight, enjoyed by several thousand spectators, and of course there was a full programme of music and other entertainment to accompany the celebration.
Shetland Will Share Expertise In International Education
Shetland Islands Council's leading role and expertise in international education is being recognised with the signing of a new agreement to develop a similar learning programme in Aberdeen.
Aberdeen City Council has been developing its international programme with help from the Shetland Islands Council Schools Service over the past year. The signing of the agreement between the two authorities marks the beginning of a formal partnership in which Aberdeen will buy support from Shetland Islands Council.
The partnership will be mutually beneficial, generating income locally, whilst developing Aberdeen's programme based on the expertise of staff in Shetland.
As this article on our website explains, Shetland has been a leader in international education since 1988, when teachers at the Anderson High School in Lerwick conceived the 'global classroom', a concept which now links schools all over the world.
Construction Begins at Sumburgh Head
The multi-million pound redevelopment of Sumburgh Head into a world class visitor centre is now under way, with the arrival on site of the contractor, Corramore Construction Ltd. Their team have begun work on a new accommodation block and the expansion of the lower car park.
Sumburgh Head is the southernmost point of the Shetland mainland and it's topped by the lighthouse that was constructed in 1821 under the direction of Robert Stevenson, grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson. Apart from being one of the most striking headlands in Shetland (and it has lots of competition), Sumburgh is also a huge seabird colony that offers the easiest imaginable viewing of puffins, in particular. It's from here that the PuffinCam has been transmitting pictures of this year's growing chick to viewers around the world.
Project partners, Shetland Amenity Trust and the RSPB are keen to ensure that construction works have a minimal impact on visitors to the area.
There's lots more information on the project website at www.sumburghhead.com. The Sumburgh Head Lighthouse and Visitor Centre will open in Spring 2014.
Meanwhile, people who have lived or worked at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse are being asked to contact the team heading the re-development so that their stories can be used as part of the site's interpretation. More than 100 lightkeepers have worked at Sumburgh Head since it was built.
Matt Arnold, the project's interpretation manager, said; 'The social history of Sumburgh Head Lighthouse is an exciting part of the project and we would like local people to get involved in telling the story of the men who worked there and the families which lived there.' Mr Arnold would welcome any information and can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Dance Bus Project Welcomes Even Those With Two Left Feet
Thanks to funding from Creative Scotland's Big Dance Fund, a 'Dance Bus' will be making its way around a number of different venues in Shetland on Saturday 14 July. On board the bus will be drummers from local group Aestaewast and, it's hoped, a large group of enthusiastic 'movers and shakers'.
At each stop this group will perform a five minute rehearsed dance accompanied by the musicians. The band will then carry on playing for a further 20 minutes, giving everyone present the chance to dance together and socialise.
The dancers will work with choreographers John Morris and Jane McLaren over three rehearsal sessions to create the piece. Speaking about the project, John Morris said: "I would love it if we could fill the bus with a whole range of people - those who love dance and also those who think they have two left feet but are willing to have a go. It would be great if some men came on board as well."
Local People Will Feature In New BBC Crime Drama
The new BBC crime drama Shetland , which will be shot largely in the islands during July, will feature local people in crowd scenes. The producers have been looking for volunteers who would like be unpaid crowd extras in a recreation of Up Helly Aa, the islands' world-famous fire festival, on Sunday 8 July.
Shetland stars Douglas Henshall of Primeval fame and is based on the Shetland Quartet crime novels by Ann Cleeves. The drama features Up Helly Aa as a backdrop to a thrilling cat and mouse chase between detectives and suspects. With the assistance of the Up Helly Aa Committee and the Guizer Jarl, there will be a recreation of the proclamation at the Market Cross, the march through Fort Charlotte, and the lighting of the torches at Lower Hillhead.
Given the islands' low crime rate, Shetland is an unlikely setting for a crime series, but Ann Cleeves' novels have won an enthusiastic following, helped by the love of the place which she so clearly communicates. Can her fictional police force match the impressive clear-up rate of the Northern Constabulary? We'll find out when the two-parter airs in the autumn.
Young Local Composer Releases Computer-Composed Classical CD
A young Shetland musician and music student, Eamonn Watt, has released his debut album of computer-composed orchestral and piano music.
Eamonn, from Sandwick, has been playing drums in local bands for a number of years but also, more unusually, developed a passion for using computer software to compose symphonic scores. The result is an album entitled Virtually Conducted 1: Bonhoga
Eamonn said: 'While being a bit nervous, I really cannot wait to introduce my debut album to the people of Shetland. I've been composing with software since Advanced Higher and it has continued to develop. I hope that my compositions will make a good impression on people'.
They've certainly impressed the BBC, which commissioned two tracks from him for a short film. Bryan Peterson, Music Development Officer at Shetland Arts and lecturer on the NC Music course said: 'Eamonn wrote, recorded and mixed the album himself as part of a college project, an amazing achievement given the complexity of his compositions. It's fantastic for a young Shetland composer at an early stage of their career to be producing music for the BBC.'
Eamonn will be continuing his studies as one of the first intake of the new Shetland College HNC Music students based in Mareel later this year. Other full time courses delivered in partnership between UHI Shetland College and Shetland Arts include NC Music and the new BA Music degree delivered as a networked course across the UHI region.
The album is also available as a download priced at £3 from Eamonn's website, oozles.bandcamp.com.
Artist Chris Rigby Explores Shetland In Oils And Watercolour
Da Gadderie, the gallery in Shetland Museum and Archives, is now hosting an exhibition of work by Chris Rigby.
In 2011, Chris Rigby spent a month based at the Booth studio in Scalloway, which was created as part of a regeneration project in the village. Over the last few years, it has been used by many artists from several countries. He also spent much of his time exploring his new terrain. All the watercolours in this exhibition were produced during his stay. The oil paintings were done later in his studio back in Lancashire.
He travelled extensively round the mainland but focused particularly on the small island of Muckle Roe, known for its spectacular coastline. He made several overnight trips, cycling over the track to the far side of the island to paint among the high red cliffs.
Talking about his fascination with dramatic places, Chris said:
'I grew up with moors above our village. My first real fell walk, up Skiddaw, gave me a taste for remote locations. It is where I find myself. My feelings about the wilder places relate to feelings of freedom; it is a world that isn't trying to sell me something or steal my imagination. It is what it is. It is very much the real world to me.'
Jazz Festival Hailed As Success
Shetland's first jazz festival has been hailed as a great success. There's always been an audience for jazz in the islands and a number of young people have become involved in recent years, most notably Norman Willmore, who excels on several instruments but is most often associated with the sax.
The idea of a festival was put forward only last year and the Shetland Jazz Club, spurred on by their irrepressible Chair, Dr Jeff Merrifield, worked very hard to bring it all together at the beginning of June. 'Dr Jazz' - as Jeff is known - has written his own account of the festival here. You can also find videos of performances, not limited to the festival itself, on the Jazz Club's 'gigs' page.
Good Range Of Houses For Sale
Summer is a popular time for house-hunting and there is a good range of homes available in Shetland for those thinking of settling in the islands.
If you're actively planning a move to Shetland, we suggest that you have a look at the advice we offer on our website about buying or renting a house in the islands. If you're thinking of building a house, it's well worth reading The Shetland House (pdf, 3.3mb), prepared by the Council's Planning Service to answer all the questions you may have.
Meanwhile, I've been looking around the local property websites to see what's on offer this month.
Dowle, Smith and Rutherford are offering a potential business opportunity in the form of the Bona Vista Guest House, which is just a couple of minutes' walk from Lerwick's old harbour. If something more modern is what you're looking for, a house in Sandwick, half way between Lerwick and the islands' main airport at Sumburgh, is a good example of the style of house that has become popular among Shetland buyers in the last decade.
Rural self-sufficiency is on offer with the croft house and land that Tait and Peterson are selling at Vidlin - a community in the north-east of the Shetland mainland.
Neil Risk is also offering properties in the Lanes area including a semi-detached house in Hangcliff Lane. On the other hand, if remoteness appeals, this croft on the island of Yell has wonderful open views and there's some land attached.
Michael Inkster & Co have a pair of semi-detached properties on the beautiful island of West Burra, which is linked by bridges to the mainland. Most solicitors also sell building plots from time to time and these, in Gulberwick - which is very close to Lerwick - are examples of what's available.
The property list at Anderson and Goodlad includes a substantial house in the Tingwall area , which is only about fifteen minutes' drive from Lerwick. They also have a number of smaller properties, for example this cottage in need of renovation at Sandwick.
Other solicitors occasionally offer property for sale or rent in Shetland, and an internet search may throw up further possibilities, for example property for sale on internet auction sites.
Blog of the month
Our blog this month comes from Rosa Steppanova, who with her husband James Mackenzie nurtures Lea Gardens, a remarkable two-acre botanic garden in the west mainland of Shetland. The gardens are their passion and they have gathered a remarkable collection of plants, all tended with love and patience.