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June 2013 Move Shetland Newsletter


Hi, I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to the June 2013 issue of our monthly newsletter. We can be sure that summer's arrived in Shetland, because there's no longer complete darkness, just an unfinished northern sunset followed by a very early dawn. For a couple of weeks around 21 June, with the sun above the horizon for very nearly 19 hours, it's light enough "overnight" to read a book, go fishing or play golf. It's a great time of year. It's also a time when nature really comes alive, with beautiful wild flowers, astonishing numbers of breeding seabirds and occasional patrolling whales. It's always worth checking the Nature in Shetland website to find out about unusual bird or whale sightings. Unfortunately, there's one piece of unwelcome news: the puffin family followed by the PuffinCam at Sumburgh Head haven't managed to rear their chick. You can find out more about what happened here.

All of Shetland's natural history is featured during the Shetland Nature Festival (29th June to 7 July). It promises (among many treats) a magical day on the uninhabited island of Mousa, which hosts nocturnal Storm Petrels that nest in the beautifully-preserved Iron Age broch, not to mention a colony of seals. Elsewhere, you could try rock climbing, coasteering or canoeing, or discover the fascinating story of Shetland's geological journey from near the South Pole to 60° North. Shetland is a European Geopark and the week will introduce us to ancient volcanoes, mountain chains and deserts. If you're contemplating a move to Shetland, the festival would be a great time to have a look around.

There are other hooks for that 'recce' trip, too. Throughout the summer, the port of Lerwick hosts visiting yachts from all around Europe and North America but, from 19 to 24 June, they'll be joined by competitors in the Bergen-Shetland Race and the 1000-mile Double Handed Race which starts from Ijmuiden in the Netherlands. It's quite a spectacle. There's lots of music coming up, too, with several concerts at Mareel. Art lovers will enjoy Peter Davis' exhibition of beautiful, minimalist landscape watercolours at the Shetland Museum and Archives, not to mention the Shetland College BA Textiles degree show, which ran for a week from 7 June. Some of the students' superb work can also be seen in a current exhibition in the historic Böd of Gremista.

If you are thinking of moving north, our new, monthly jobs feature offers a round-up of some of the opportunities that are currently available in Shetland. Who knows? One of them might be the key to your new future!

Shetland offers an exceptional quality of life. If you need help with planning your trip, our companion website,, has lots of information and you can also read my colleague Abby's latest newsletter which, among other things, highlights our wonderful (and amazingly prolific) Shetland rhubarb: I've begun enjoying mine, too! You might also like to browse our online quarterly magazine, 60 North.

'Shetland's Larder' is runner-up in Fortnum and Mason awards

A BBC Radio Shetland programme has emerged as runner-up in the first ever Fortnum and Mason Awards.

BBC Radio Shetland provides a service of news, features and music to the islands. One much-admired series is 'Shetland's Larder', which features island food and food traditions, invariably with some real cooking going on, very audibly, in the studio. It's always a fascinating programme and presenters Eunice Henderson and Jane Moncrieff bring a great deal of knowledge, leavened with good humour.

Their programme was nominated for the first ever Fortnum and Mason Awards, which highlight the best in writing and broadcasting about food, and Eunice and Jane were delighted to find themselves at the awards ceremony in London and even more pleased to discover that they were runners-up to the overall winner, BBC Radio 4's highly-regarded Food Programme. It's a real compliment to their enthusiasm, creativity and flair.

Meanwhile, Londoners have had another chance to sample the very best of Shetland food - and learn to dance Shetland reels - thanks to another of Helen Nisbet's Shetland nights in London, which apparently was a great success.

Dunrossness Primary Pupils Complete Graffiti Project for Sumburgh Head

Graffiti are almost unknown in Shetland but children at Dunrossness Primary School, in the south mainland, have been creating some to order.

When work on the renovation of the nearby Sumburgh Lighthouse got under way recently, pieces of 'graffiti' in the form of blocks of wood with written messages were discovered when the sash windows in some of the buildings were removed for restoration.

The Lighthouse tower at Sumburgh Head was designed by Robert Stevenson and constructed in 1821, but some buildings date from 1906/07. The joiners who fitted the windows in these later buildings left pieces of wood in the void spaces around the windows, inscribed with handwritten messages, a practice that's been common for centuries. The messages were a mix of comments about the boss being away, bad food from the cook, religious text and even a complaint about a particularly lazy colleague who would not get out of bed, even with a glass of spirit to coax him.

Staff from Shetland Amenity Trust, which is leading the renovation on the site, approached the school's head teacher, Lesley Simpson, and the upshot is that the pupils have inscribed their own messages on pieces of wood, which will be installed when the windows are re-fitted.

The £5.4m project, due for completion next year, also involves the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which manages the spectacular bird reserve at Sumburgh Head, and the Northern Lighthouse Board, which still owns and operates the lighthouse tower.

Winning garden at the Chelsea Flower Show has a Shetland connection

Visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show would have seen that one of the show gardens had been created for the Motor Neurone Disease Association; it had a Shetland connection.

The Shetland link stems from Martin Anderson, co-founder of the MNDA, who is a regular visitor to Shetland and has a great affection for the islands and their people. The Association has had show gardens before, with a Shetland-themed garden winning a gold medal in 2008.

This year, the cottage that formed the backdrop to the garden was modelled on a Hebridean 'black house' but the stone for it came all the way from Shetland, transported there by Alan Smiles, a dyker from Yell, and constructed by Alan and his son Karl. Their efforts were clearly appreciated, because the garden, designed by Nottingham Trent University student Jackie Setchfield, picked up another gold medal.

Rosa's recipe tops the table

Still on a gardening theme, Rosa Steppanova is best known in Shetland for having created a beautiful botanic garden and nursery at Tresta, in the islands' west mainland, and she has also written widely about the challenges and rewards of gardening at 60° north. However, her skills extend indoors, too: one of her recipes - for a gluten-free chocolate, morello and almond cake - was chosen as the best submitted for a recent feature in the Guardian. It looks very, very tempting.

Shetland economy out-performs UK

The impression that Shetland is weathering the recession better than many places is borne out in a new economic study.

The report, produced for Shetland Islands Council, values the Shetland economy in 2010/11 at just over a billion pounds, £1,091.4m to be precise. The equivalent figure in 2003, at 2011 prices, was £860.5m, indicating that Shetland's output grew at around 3% over the period, faster than that of the rest of the UK.

The islands have also been more than paying their way. Shetland's balance of payments was firmly in the black, with exports exceeding imports by £131m in 2010/11. 89% of the surplus stems from fisheries. The position is now much better than in 2003, when there was a trade deficit of £106m.

Islanders also made their biggest-ever contribution to the UK exchequer, paying £82m more in taxes than they received in government payments. Annual household income in 2011 is estimated at £38,148 and the study estimates that there were 10,490 full-time equivalent jobs.

All in all, it's an encouraging picture. You can find the full report here.

Lerwick Harbour charts a positive future

Confidence in Shetland's future is reflected in the new strategy and business plan that's been published by the Lerwick Port Authority.

It's anticipated that 2013 will be a busy year, thanks to the four main industry sectors operating at the port – oil & gas, ferries and freight, fishing, and marine tourism from cruise ships and yachts.

The authority's Chair, Harry Jamieson, says that forecasts for the next three years are “very encouraging”. The business plan promises several significant projects, with a new deep-water quay for oil rig decommissioning, more deep-water berths elsewhere in the harbour and an expansion of the authority's extensive industrial estates. The prospect of onshore and offshore renewable energy is also being explored. Lerwick is a Trust Port, so all profits are reinvested in the harbour, with over £74 million having been invested in port assets since the 1960s.

The Plan can be viewed here. You can also find out what's happening in the harbour right now on the Lerwick Port Authority's excellent dashboard, which features weather and tidal information, live webcam views, current vessel locations and news of events. It's part of a completely revised website that was recently launched.

Boats old and new feature in UK Maritime Heritage Forum and Boat Show

The focus was perhaps less on the future, and more on the future of the past, at the UK Maritime Heritage Forum that was recently held in Shetland.

Thirty delegates from all over the UK attended to discuss the conservation of traditional craft, the role that museums can play in their conservation and the passing on of maritime skills. One highlight was a session led by Christopher Dobbs, who chronicled his career from diving on the Kennemerland (pdf), off Shetland's Out Skerries, to his current position as Head of Interpretation at the Mary Rose Trust, which has just opened its new museum in Portsmouth.

Delegates admired the Shetland Museum and Archives. Kevin Fewster, Director of the National Maritime Museum commented; "We are all hugely impressed by what you have created. Not only are the exhibits and programmes truly first-rate, there is a unity to everything one sees - the architecture, fit-out, exhibition approach, even the shop and restaurant - which is inspirational. One very rarely sees this in any museum, regardless of size. We all leave Shetland hugely impressed by what you're doing."

Shetland has many traditional craft and several were on show as part of the hugely popular Shetland boat show, held in mid-May and attended by more than 2,000 enthusiasts. It also featured a great selection of modern sailing dinghies, because sailing is another Shetland passion. There were also several examples of the boats being built in Shetland today, including thoroughly modern craft used in aquaculture.

Jobs of the month

Since – unlike many parts of the UK – Shetland has a healthy economy, a good selection of jobs is usually on offer. Here's our first monthly round-up of some of the posts available at the moment. For some jobs, the closing date may be imminent and you may need to act quickly.

  • The Shetland Islands Council is looking for a Specialist Social Worker (Mental Health) (no closing date specified)
  • NHS Shetland has a number of vacancies for nursing, healthcare, dental and clerical posts (various closing dates)

On our website, we also have some general information about finding a job in Shetland.

Jobs of the Month

Blog of the Month

Rosa Steppanova's gardening blog recounts her gardening experiences and also, incidentally demonstrates that - despite what you may have heard - we do have trees in Shetland. In fact, the main reason we don't have many more is that constant grazing by sheep prevents natural regeneration, except in fenced plantations.

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