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Our April 2018 Diary

by Alastair Hamilton -

With rapidly-lengthening days and the clocks changed, folk are looking forward to spending more time outdoors. There are springtime jobs to be done in the garden, endless opportunities for long walks or bike rides or maybe a first chance to get afloat if we have a boat or a kayak – though I’ve already spotted one kayaker close to home, taking advantage of a mirror-calm, sunny day in the middle of March. Outdoor sports also get under way. We’ll be welcoming a steadily-increasing number of visitors, too, and we have cruise liners calling at Lerwick on the 8th and 9th, plus our old friend, the magnificent Norwegian tall ship, Statsraad Lehmkuhl, on the 21st.

1 April is Easter Day, so there will be egg hunts and, no doubt, lots of egg painting and egg rolling all over the islands. Also on show from the beginning of the month are some remarkable wood engravings at Da Gadderie in the Shetland Museum and Archives. The Society of Wood Engravers runs an Annual Touring Exhibition and this, their 80th, will be there until 25 April. We’re promised more than 100 beautiful examples of the art, with prints available to buy. It’s an international show featuring exquisite work, all of it made by one of the simplest and most enduring creative processes.

There are three events in aid of Cancer Research during April, both linked to the Shetland Relay for Life, the largest fundraiser of its kind in the UK. The first is a singer-songwriter competition in the Fjara Café-Bar on 1 April and the second, on the 14th, will take place in our arts centre, Mareel, in the form of Shetland’s Got Talent. Entry is open to anyone, so there will certainly be singers and musicians and perhaps comedians, magicians or story-tellers.

Then, on the 22nd, our exceptionally talented local chef, Akshay Borges, will be hosting a seafood buffet in the Sound Hall in Lerwick. Relay for Life, in aid of Cancer Research, takes place over 12 hours, beginning at 8pm on Saturday 26 May. The last relay in 2016 raised more than £183,000 and Shetland has donated more than £1.1m to Cancer Research since these events began in 2006.

Of course, music is at the core of Shetland life and there’s more at Mareel on the 20th, when we welcome Swedish acoustic trio, Väsen, back to the islands. Their music is deeply rooted in the Swedish countryside and features a five-string viola of sophisticated symphonic taste, an adventurous 12-string guitar, and a nyckelharpa (a “keyed fiddle”). There are rock, jazz and classical influences in the mix, too, ably blended by three players who are instrumental virtuosos in their own right. The BBC’s Fiona Talkington wrote in Songlines that they’re “brilliant – an unstoppable force” and The Herald advised us to “move heaven and earth for a ticket”.

The following night, and on the 22nd, the Clickimin Centre will be transformed into a ballet venue, as Scottish Ballet presents Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling. Described as La Syphide for the Trainspotting generation, the tale it tells is of the downfall of James- a young Scot with sex, love and rock and roll on his mind. Recently married to his beloved Effie, his addiction to excess finds him in the company of a wild, gothic fairy. As his love for the strange and beautiful fairy becomes an obsession, James embarks on a fateful journey that takes him from the mean streets and nightclubs of Glasgow into a world beyond reality and reason. Reviewers have been united in their praise.

More music? Well, yes: on the 27th and 28th, it’s the turn of our younger players, who’ll take to the stage at Mareel for the competition to find Shetland’s Young Fiddler of the Year. Without a doubt, there will be some stunningly good musicianship on display.

Fiddles also tend to play a big part in the Shetland Folk Festival, which I previewed back in January. The event runs over the weekend of 3 – 6 May and tickets go on general sale on 2 April at 6pm. Members have been able to buy them since 19 March, but – at the time of writing – tickets for 19 out of 25 concerts were still available. However, they’ll start to disappear, so if you’re minded to make the trip to Shetland for what is always a great feast of music, best to get booking once the ticket page re-opens.

Looking farther ahead, and again with trip planning in mind, it’s time for a heads-up for anyone with an interest in classic cars or motorbikes, stationary engines or historic trucks and buses. The Shetland Classic Motor Show, held every second year, runs from 31 May to 5 June, with everything on display at the Clickimin Centre on the 2nd and 3rd. Either side of the weekend, historic vehicles from all over the UK will be taking to Shetland’s roads, and they make quite a spectacle.

Lots to look forward to, then; and the diaries for the summer months will, as always, be crammed with all sorts of delights. Let’s hope for more of the weather that we’ve generally enjoyed for the past few years, when Shetland has often been sunnier and drier than many other parts of the country.

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