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October 2012 Move Shetland Newsletter


Hi, I'm Alastair and I'd like to welcome you to the October edition of our newsletter.

One of the highlights of my month has been trying out the new facilities in Mareel, Shetland's new and most impressive cinema and music venue. Over its first few weeks, it has hosted several events including the Shetland Blues Festival, two jazz concerts and a classical recital by Shetland's Neil Georgeson. Quite apart from its creative offerings - which as I explain below, are many and varied - it's another addition to a lengthening list of places in Shetland where you can enjoy tea or coffee, maybe a scone or cake, a light lunch, or a drink, all in very pleasant surroundings. The free wifi works well, too, and there are great views out from the café bar over Hay's Dock and the harbour. Mareel was the base for this year's ScreenPlay and WordPlay festivals and it made a good impression on film critic Mark Kermode, as he records in his video blog and on Orcadian visitor Amy Liptrot, writing in the Guardian.

What's happening in Mareel, though, is only a fraction of what's on in Shetland in any given month. Just along the waterfront, at the Shetland Museum and Archives, one of the British Museum's most popular exhibits - a stunningly beautiful ancient Egyptian bronze cat - has ventured a long way from its usual haunts. You can read more about the cat and the interest it has created in this British Museum blog, which has some good photos.

In October, a notable event is Shetland Wool Week, an annual celebration of the very special place that Shetland knitwear and textiles hold in the hearts of knitters and weavers (and those who wear their work) around the world. There's also a huge celebration of sport in the shape of Shetland Sports Week, which brings some outstanding coaches to Shetland and offers everyone an opportunity to get involved.

Meanwhile, Shetland is seldom out of the picture for television viewers. James Morton has so far survived the rigorous appraisal of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry on The Great British Bake-Off, impressing them with his doughnuts in the most recent technical challenge. But he's had one or two less successful bakes, so will he make it into the semi-final? James has written about his GBBO experiences for Shetland Life magazine (which - this being a smallish place - happens to be edited by his dad!).

Also on BBC2, viewers were recently given an insight into Shetland's Viking heritage in the latest series by that most engaging of historians, Neil Oliver, ably assisted by Shetland Museum's curator, Dr Ian Tait. Some clips from the series are available on the programme's website. And, as if that wasn't enough exposure for one month, Shetland's Marnie Baxter, who hails from the village of Aith, has turned up in Albert Square, playing a private investigator in EastEnders; she appears in this catch-up clip.

Last but not least, the autumn bird migration season is upon us and birdwatchers have had a very rewarding time so far, with several British rarities turning up. You can keep up with what's happening on the Nature in Shetland 'latest sightings' page; scrolling down, you'll see the British rarities highlighted in red and Shetland rarities in yellow.

2012 Cruise Liner Visits Set Four New Records

Lerwick Harbour has logged its best cruise season yet, with the number of vessels visiting the Shetland port setting four new records.

The islands welcomed 37,572 cruise passengers, topping the previous highest figure of 30,843 in 2010. 52 cruise ships called, beating last year's record of 50. The tonnage of cruise shipping rose to 1,531,097 gross tonnes, well above the previous record of 1,220,455 gross tonnes in 2010.

The largest liner to call was, once again, the Costa Pacifica (114,288 gross tonnes) and she beat her own 2011 record for the most passengers on one ship, landing 3,105 visitors in Lerwick on 2 July on one of her two visits to the port. Her previous record was 3,007 in June last year.

This season's final call on Saturday was by Fram, one of the Norwegian coastal steamer fleet which operate the 'Hurtigruten' service that links communities on Norway's west coast. She was operating an eight-day North Atlantic Islands Cruise that ventured as far as Iceland.

Victor Sandison, Lerwick Port Authority Deputy Chief Executive, said: 'The record-breaking season is further evidence that the Authority's investment in facilities and the commitment in Shetland to promoting the islands' many attractions and making passengers welcome are generating the right results and sustained success.

'The forward bookings - with 43 already for next year, 17 for 2014 and a handful for 2015 - are another encouraging vote of confidence in everything that the port and Shetland can offer.'

The 2013 season is already set to break at least one record, with scheduled vessels adding up to 1,617,065 gross tonnes, reflecting the trend in recent years towards larger cruise ships calling at the sheltered, deep-water port.

As a member of Cruise Scotland, the Port Authority will be represented at a cruising convention to be held in Marseille in November. It's hoped to interest operators that draw their passengers from southern Europe, a potential market for Scottish ports.

Opening Season at Mareel Takes Shape

Shetland's superb new cinema and music venue has been busy during its first month or so of operation, drawing crowds to concerts and to first-run films including Brave, The Dark Night Rises and Anna Karenina. The music programme for the opening season, which runs until December, brings a great range of performers to the islands.

The menu includes two separate concerts featuring Welsh singer-songwriter Cerys Matthews, now better known as a solo performer than for her nine years with Catatonia. The first is on 7 October, when she'll be accompanied by a number of other musicians from around the world in a special show. Her Cerys by Candlelight tour will play Mareel in December.

'Madchester' legends The Happy Mondays will be playing two concerts on 14 and 15 December, the only Scottish appearances on their European tour. Other highlights include Vic Galloway Presents, which is the first in a series of regular music showcase concerts hosted by BBC Radio 1 & Radio Scotland DJ Vic Galloway, followed by a DJ set by the man himself. Other DJs appearing during the opening season - both regular visitors to Shetland - include Lisa Lashes and DJ Kutski.

There will be performances during the Shetland Guitar Festival featuring jazz-electronica maestro Stuart McCallum and former Simply Red and Stone Roses guitarist Aziz Ibrahim. Elsewhere in the programme, evenings will embrace experiences as diverse as Scottish duo Aidan Moffat & Bill Wells and the Shetland Community Orchestra.

The programme over the weekend of 16-18 November, when Mareel will be officially opened, is particularly packed. It kicks off with popular Scottish indie band, Aberfeldy, with support from singer-songwriter Chris Bradley. On the Saturday, Mareel will host the culmination of a week-long celebration linking Mareel with musicians from all over Shetland as well as from across the ocean. Shetland Meets Appalachia - an exploration of our common musical roots features American fiddler, banjo player, guitarist, and singer Bruce Molsky alongside special Shetland guests including Gary Peterson, Maurice Henderson, Maggie Adamson, Sheila Henderson, Brian Nicholson, the Cullivoe Fiddlers, the Heritage Fiddlers, Lynda Anderson, and more. Workshops and concerts will take place during the previous week in schools and halls across Shetland. Sunday 18 November will see Dougie MacLean, Scotland's pre-eminent singer-songwriter, take to the stage. Perhaps his most famous composition is the near-anthemic Caledonia - a song that has been covered by over 200 artists world-wide, including the likes of Ronan Keating, Frankie Miller, Paolo Nutini and Amy MacDonald. The song has even had a whisky named in its honour.

Director of Shetland Arts, Gwilym Gibbons, said: 'We are absolutely delighted to announce such a packed programme of high-quality events for the official opening season at Mareel. We have had a huge amount of interest so far and we expect that things will only get busier in the run up to the festive season.'

Also during opening season, Shetland Arts will be launching Mareel's much-anticipated cinema promotions including Gold & Silver Cards, Family & Friends Discount, and Ten4Nine. The Gold Card gives customers access to unlimited film at Mareel for just £15 a month. The Silver Card gives customers access to unlimited off-peak film at Mareel for £10 a month.

You can download, as a pdf, the full programme for Mareel's opening season.

Work Starts On New Education Centre At Sumburgh Head

Contractors working on the improvement of facilities at Sumburgh Head, one of Shetland's best seabird sites, have laid the foundations for the new Education Centre.

Sumburgh Head, which forms the southern tip of the Shetland mainland, is a favourite place for local people and visitors to Shetland, offering close encounters with puffins. Its spectacular cliffs are home to guillemots, black guillemots, razorbills, fulmar petrels, kittiwakes and shags. The headland is also one of the best places in Shetland for spotting whales. It's a Site of Special Scientific Interest and forms an RSPB reserve.

The new centre will stand adjacent to the Sumburgh Lighthouse, designed by Robert Stevenson and built in 1821. It will host a range of events and activities, some aimed at school parties and some of interest to other visitors to the headland. Private hire will also be available.

Construction contractor Corramore have been hard at work on the site since May and the restoration of the 'listed' lighthouse is going well. The later extensions to the upper Keeper's cottage have been removed and work is now underway on restoring external window lintels and internal features.

The car park has been extended slightly to allow more parking spaces for summer visitors, and work has started on installing the new pumping station to improve the water supply to the buildings. The installation of an underground heat pump, which will provide economical and sustainable heating for the Lighthouse buildings, is imminent. The bill for all of this is some £5.4m, over £3.7m of which has come from UK and European sources. The project is due for completion in 2014.

You can find out more about the project at

Textiles Out Of The Box: Innovative New Show At Bonhoga Gallery

The Bonhoga Gallery, situated in a converted grain mill in Weisdale, is showing an exhibition of work by six of Shetland's most innovative contemporary textile designers.

The participants are members of Text-Isles, a collective of designers who work together to promote Shetland textiles. They form an active, unified and creative group that aims to promote Shetland textiles nationally and internationally.

Work for this exhibition started many months ago, with each of the six designers preparing a box of objects and artefacts that represented their interpretation of Shetland heritage and folklore. To this, each member added basic starter materials such as cotton, Shetland wool, a notebook and some fleece or fibre. On a dark night in February, the six makers - Jo Jack, Wendy Inkster, Suzanne Shearer, Andrea Williamson, Donna Smith and Emma Blain met at Bonhoga to swap their boxes with each other and start the second phase of the project. Each, with their new box of delights, set about interpreting the contents and using them to inspire new pieces of work for display.

It is these boxes, sketchbooks and finished works that make up the unusual and inspiring exhibition that runs until 4 November. To complement this show, there are ranges of cutting edge textiles from around the UK including Lost Values, a design initiative from London creating knitwear using a reflective yarn, and work by Yu-Ping Ling, a textile jeweller originally from Taiwan, whose intricate and beautiful range of work is inspired by origami and kaleidoscopic patterns. On a different scale, Shetland designer, Wendy Shaw is exhibiting a colourful collection of contemporary interior pieces and accessories in knitted cotton, and Emma Palmer revives the textile technique of tatting in colourful contemporary jewellery.

Unconnected with the textile exhibition, but beautiful and inspiring in its own way, is a photographic exhibition in the Bonhoga café by Shetlander Christopher Rocks, taken during a seven month stay as a recent graduate in Kenya in 2011. These powerful images have been chosen to reflect an outsider's glimpse of a very different culture, documenting a challenging project to improve the livelihoods of women and children in an east African slum through, among other initiatives, the establishment of a micro-credit system.

Andrea Strachan To Swim In Berlin World Cup Competition

Andrea Strachan, one of Shetland's many competitive swimmers, has been selected to swim for Britain in the FINA World Cup in Berlin on 20 and 21 October.

Growing up in the islands, Andrea made full use of the excellent swimming facilities that Shetland offers. There is a first-class 25m pool in Lerwick complemented by a further seven smaller modern pools throughout the isles. She now trains with Edinburgh University.

Shetland's Member of the Scottish Parliament, Tavish Scott, tabled a cross-party motion congratulating Andrea on her achievement. We wish her every success in Berlin.

New Chief Executive for Shetland Islands Council

One of Shetland's newest residents is Mark Boden, who has been appointed as the Chief Executive of Shetland Islands Council and is about to take up his new duties.

Mark, whose professional background is in law, has had a long career in local government, including ten years as Chief Executive at Kennet District Council in Devizes, Wiltshire. He later became part of the team that successfully created the new unitary Wiltshire County Council, where he was formerly Corporate Director.

Like the Council in Shetland, Kennet District Council was dominated by independent councilors serving a sparsely populated rural area. Mark has a wealth of experience in performance management, delivering efficiencies, continuous improvement and community engagement. Away from work, Mark's interests include hill-walking and history. He has served 28 years in the Territorial Army and was, for six years, a Commandant in the Army Cadet Force. He is involved in voluntary youth work and is a trustee of two service charities.

Gary Robinson, the Council's Political Leader, chaired the appointments panel, which he said had been impressed by Mark Boden's 'experience, knowledge and passion for Shetland. He combines experience and innovation, and has extensive experience which will enable the Council to keep on track to deliver its ambitious plans.' Convener Malcolm Bell added that it was a key appointment for the Council. 'I am confident Mark Boden will provide the leadership, at officer level, necessary to build on the work started by Alistair Buchan. We have some difficult years ahead, and I am delighted we have been able to attract someone of Mark's calibre.'

Mark is moving to Shetland with his wife Angela, and says he considers his new post as 'an exciting opportunity in a unique, attractive and interesting place'.

Norwegian Hostel Manager Visits Shetland's World-Beating Hostel

The high standards of the award-winning Islesburgh House Hostel have attracted a study visit from a Norwegian entrepreneur and hostel manager.

Ole Røhnebæk owns a bike tour company and manages youth hostels in Hamar and Lillehammer. He has spent a fortnight in Shetland thanks to the 2012 Leonardo da Vinci programme, a European-funded project which helps organisations in the vocational education sector to work with partners from across Europe to exchange best practice and increase expertise.

Ole first met Dale Smith, Islesburgh Team Leader, at Hostelling International's Annual Managers' Meeting in Vienna last December, and was struck by his talk on Shetland, and the work being done here. Commenting on his visit to Shetland, Ole said: 'Shetland in general, and the Islesburgh Hostel as a natural base camp, has already inspired me a lot. All the people I have met - in the café, on the bus, at the bike rental, the museum and in the hostel - do everything they can to ensure visitors enjoy a memorable stay. They not only answer your questions but they support them with their enthusiasm and local knowledge. This attitude makes all the difference. I will work on this when I get home and train my staff to be more like Shetlanders.'

Dale says he's impressed with Ole's commitment to good practice, and pleased he chose to visit Islesburgh: 'Ole is a natural when it comes to customer care, he's very friendly, approachable and outgoing. Whilst we're naturally delighted he chose to come to Islesburgh to learn, we're sure we will learn from him as well. The world of hostel management is exceptionally good at sharing information, tips and feedback.'

Play Talk Read Bus Rolls Into Shetland

The Play Talk Read Bus, which features a range of interactive activities to help children and parents get the most from playing, talking and reading, has been touring Shetland.

The bus promotes playing, talking and reading with children as a way of giving them a great start in life. The Play Talk Read website - - has even more to offer, including apps, books and competitions. There are also lots of play ideas for parents and children.

Blog Of The Month

Our blog this month is linked to a new website that promotes rock climbing in Shetland. The islands offer an extraordinarily varied geology and, with nearly 1,700 miles of coast, many sections of which are cliffs, climbers are beginning to take a serious interest in the climbing potential. There are granite hillsides, volcanic sea cliffs and gneiss boulder fields offering, as the climbing website says, 'about as varied a climbing experience as you could hope for'. The local climbing fraternity has recorded more than 1,000 climbing routes.

The website includes some spectacular photography of climbing in Shetland and there's a lively climbers' blog.

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