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March 2010 Newsletter


Here is our newsletter from March 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.

Fiddler's Bid Win Through

Having been nominated for best instrumental album in the respected Spiral Earth Awards, leading Shetland band, Fiddler's Bid, went on to pick up the trophy for All Dressed in Yellow, having won the vote by a substantial majority in an online poll. The Spiral Earth review described the band as "a joyous celebration of the Shetland fiddle tradition" and praised the album's "infectious enjoyment". In April, they'll be performing music from the album in a tour that takes in Gateshead, Hawick, Inverness, Keswick, Islay, Glasgow (Giffnock), Stirling, Perth, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. They'll also be at the Shetland Folk Festival at the end of the month and, in June, will take part in the Shetland Hamefarin, or homecoming. Full details are on the Fiddler's Bid website.

Aly Bain Meets Nicola Benedetti

Meanwhile, Shetland's most famous traditional fiddler will appear with a leading classical violinist in a half-hour programme on BBC2 Scotland on Tuesday 2nd March at 10pm. The programme will only be shown in Scotland, but is available in other parts of the UK via Sky Channel 990. Aly Bain met up in Edinburgh with Nicola Benedetti, who is making an impact in her field well beyond her native Scotland. They visited the Scottish Parliament – in which they've both played – and struck up a tune in Aly Bain's Edinburgh flat. The programme will be available for the next few days on the BBC iPlayer at

Simon King Series Boosts Interest In Shetland

Simon King's stunning three-part series chronicling a year in Shetland - for which Fiddler's Bid provided the title music - has provoked a dramatic increase in interest in the islands. Watched by more than 3 million viewers on BBC2, the programmes were also popular on the BBC iPlayer. The website saw traffic multiply fourfold and the tourist office in Lerwick also dealt with many more enquiries than usual. Demand for travel and accommodation is likely to be heavy this year, even without the planned repeat of the series and the launch of an accompanying book, in April.

School Student Designs New, Re-usable Shopping Bag

A local project, Carbon Reduction Shetland, has launched a new bag featuring a design by local school pupil Shaun Llewellyn. The bag will be given away free to shoppers to reduce the amount of plastic bags used in the isles. Shaun, of the Anderson High School, won a competition to create the design for the cotton bag. Harriet Bolt, Carbon Reduction Officer at the Shetland Amenity Trust, said: “Several schools took part in the competition and the designs from pupils were all excellent. We had a tough time choosing a winner.”

Carbon Reduction Shetland is already working with local shopkeepers to encourage the reuse of shopping bags. They hope that giving the bags away will encourage more shoppers to give up plastic bags. Harriet Bolt said: “As well as causing problems with disposal, plastic bags require a lot of energy to make, increasing their carbon footprint. With the average bag used for just twelve minutes, we need to realise that there are more sensible options. We decided to produce a reusable cotton bag, strong enough to use over and over again, and we're delighted that it features the artwork of a local student.”

Freight Services Strengthened By New Ship

The company that operates most ferry services between Shetland, Orkney and the Scottish mainland has introduced a new freight vessel on the route. NorthLink Ferries brought the MV Hildasay onto the route during February. 122 metres long and weighing in at 7,606 gross tonnes, the ship replaces an older vessel, the Hascosay. The company says that the Hildasay will have enough capacity to meet growing demand and will offer a reliable service. It's one of two freight ships that NorthLink operates alongside the two modern cruise ferries, Hjaltland and Hrossey, that provide a daily passenger and car service. The new vessel can accommodate up to 12 passengers in twin bunk, en-suite cabins. Sophie Wishart (12), who had suggested Hildasay, named the ship at a ceremony in Lerwick.

Hildasay is the name of a small island to the west of the village of Scalloway, now inhabited only on an occasional basis, from which large quantities of granite were once extracted; it's notable for having the remains of one of Shetland's few railways, used to move the stone from the quarry to the harbour.

Freight services to Shetland are also provided by the Streamline Shipping Group.

Cross-Country Running Offers Tough Challenge

This is a quieter time of year on Shetland's golf courses, but the one at Dale, close to Lerwick, is to take on a new winter role during March, when it will be the scene of cross-country championships. The course stretches up the valley sides above the Burn of Dale and should offer runners a real challenge. Races will be run over two miles or three miles, depending on age, and the terrain is varied. It's also an ideal venue for spectators, as the valley offers a huge amphitheatre in which it will be possible to follow the progress of runners at every stage of the event. There's more about the Dale Golf Course on the club website.

New Exhibition Shows New Work By Local Artists

Da Gadderie, the art gallery in the Shetland Museum and Archives, is hosting an exhibition of new works by two well known local artists, Anne Bain and Mike Finnie.

Anne is inspired by the ever-changing light, colour and atmosphere of the landscape in Shetland: “I am endlessly drawn to the light on the horizon, patterns of light and shade and the movement between darkness and light and the light beyond that again. Because of this I often find myself trying to retain the memory of a fleeting glimpse of light or colour until I can record it in a sketchbook or on any scraps of paper I have to hand. I then take these sketches, which I have created in all weathers, and try to capture the atmosphere and mood of the moment in my paintings”.

Working mostly in water-based media, Anne's paintings are often about the combination of a retained memory and the "essence" of place and time, rather than an accurate representation of the landscape. The new work she has created for this exhibition focuses on the relationship between old settlement, the sea and the land.

Mike, who is an architect, has always drawn inspiration from architectural subjects, with almost all his paintings including the landscape and vernacular buildings of Shetland. These low buildings hug the landscape and their relationship with the sea is close, because their builders were dependent on the sea for livelihood and transport. Not surprisingly, the paintings often feature spectacular cliffs and coastline.

Mike's work is also a record of a Shetland which is slowly disappearing. The unchanged traditional buildings are more often found in the remote parts of the islands. Mike develops paintings from sketches mostly done in the winter when the sky is dramatic and the sunlight yellow and horizontal. He strives to capture some of this light in his art. The watercolours he has created for this exhibition depict subjects from the length and breadth of Shetland.

John Hunter, Shetland Museum and Archives exhibitions officer, said: “It's a common misconception that artists work in isolation, self absorbed in their thoughts and ideas. More often than not they work alongside other artists, sharing skills and developing ideas. Anne and Mike have worked on numerous projects together and are involved in local artists" lead groups; Veer North and the Company of Incidental Artists. They are both inspired by the unique qualities of the Shetland landscape and seascape and, despite the common spring their work is drawn from, they both produce art which is distinctively their own. The clear simplicity of Mike's watercolours and his knowledge and training in architecture are the hallmarks of his work. Anne's use of rich colours and bold gestural techniques create striking semi-abstract compositions. This is sure to be a stimulating and popular show.” It runs until 22 March.

Jazz Film Receives Scottish Première In Shetland

"If they don't like it, they will". That was the confident prediction of remarkable jazz musician Albert Ayler (1936-70) who was a pioneer of free jazz and was determined to break musical boundaries wherever he found them. Ayler, who hailed from Ohio and played tenor sax, spent time enjoying musical experimentation in Sweden before returning to the USA, where his life ended dramatically in the East River. At the end of February, the very active Shetland Jazz Club and Shetland Film Club managed to arrange a showing of the documentary about his life, by Kasper Collin, immediately before its release on DVD; it was the first time the film had been seen in Scotland. There are many reviews on the internet, including for example this one from the New York Times.

More Mirrie Dancers

The series of illuminations that has been running at a number of different sites over the winter, and that we featured in our January newsletter, is now drawing to a conclusion. During February, two historic buildings in Burra Isle, to the west of the Shetland mainland, were bathed in white, blue, green, peach and red light and they "talked" to each other across a half-mile wide voe (sea inlet) with poetry in morse code. The displays, which develop the theme of the aurora borealis, have drawn much favourable comment. As the Mirrie Dancers website explains, the light shows are only part of the project. There are links with Shetland lace and with preparations for the new cinema and music venue, Mareel, that will open in 2011.

A Week Of Indian Classical Dance

For a week in March, people in Shetland with an interest in dance will be able to perform with Dance Ihayami, a groundbreaking Scottish-based classical Indian dance company that has captivated audiences in Scotland and abroad for many years. Members of the company will work in schools during the daytimes and spend the evenings preparing for Thrayaa – Trinity, the final performance at the end of the week. This performance will use rhythmic footwork and beautiful hand gestures to explore the power of three; satyam shivam sundaram – truth is beautiful.

As part of this performance the company will work each evening during the week with dance enthusiasts who would like to experience Indian dance and take part in the final production. John Haswell of Shetland Arts said that the organisation was delighted to be welcoming the company to Shetland. "Not only will the performance be stunning but it is particularly exciting that we can involve the public in the performance".

Kurdish Writer Takes Up Residency

Acclaimed writer, Choman Hardi will be returning to Shetland in March 2010, to take up a month long Creative Writing Residency. Choman Hardi is a poet, translator and painter, born in Iraqi Kurdistan. She arrived in the UK in 1993, having twice had to flee to Iran with her family, in 1975 and in 1988 (during Saddam's Anfal Campaign against the Kurds.) She has studied philosophy and psychology at Oxford University and at the University College of London, completed a doctorate at Kent University and post-doctorate research at the University of Uppsala.

Dr Hardi has published three volumes of poetry in Kurdish and her first volume of poetry written in English, Life For Us was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2006. She has wide experience of working as a creative writing tutor. In 2007 she facilitated a series of poetry workshops for young people in Kurdistan. When she is not carrying out research, delivering workshops or writing, Choman Hardi also performs her work around the world and has read her poetry in the UK (including Shetland where her appearance at Wordplay was supported by Amnesty International), Europe, USA, India, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Speaking about her residency in Shetland, Choman said, ”I am really excited about revisiting this place with its open skies and compassionate people. I hope that this month will be a creative time and that, together, we will produce some new work inspired by the words of other poets.”

Dr Hardi's work in Shetland will include support for Shetland writers through creative writing workshops in the community, schools visits and poetry readings. Shetland Arts Literature Development Officer, Donald Anderson said, “Choman Hardi is a fine poet and an excellent writing tutor who is very keen to come to Shetland. I have no doubt that she will make a tremendous impact both in her readings and her workshops.”

The residency is one of a series of residencies run by Shetland Arts with support from the Scottish Arts Council.

Snow Adds Sparkle To Winter Landscape

Because nowhere in the islands is more than three miles from the sea, Shetland isn't normally an especially snowy or frosty place. However, 2010 has been an exception, with some heavy falls producing up to a foot of level snow in places. There has been little or no wind on many days, but drifting did cause problems once or twice. Although there has been some disruption, with school closures and many evening events postponed, the Council's snowplough teams are very well-equipped and they mostly managed to keep roads passable. Meanwhile, sledges and skis have been extracted from attics and garages and snowmen, snowwomen, snowdogs and even a snow double bass have appeared all over the islands. As Jen Hadfield observes in this account of recent weather published on the website, the island of Foula, off the west mainland, took on the appearance of a vast iceberg. It's no wonder that writers and poets are inspired by Shetland through the seasons. Jen, who lives in Burra Isle, won the 2009 T S Eliot Prize.


We'd welcome any comments you have about this email, or about the 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


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Or write to us at:
Shetland Islands Council, Solarhus, North Ness, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0LZ, UNITED KINGDOM

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