Our February Diary

by Alastair Hamilton -

This year, February is – as always – replete with fire festivals, but there’s music, drama and a couple of excellent exhibitions. We can also look forward to the start of BBC1's Shetland detective series - the fifth.

The largest of those fire festivals, the Lerwick Up Helly Aa, may have brought January to an end, but it’s far from the end of the fire festival season; we have no fewer than six in February. Two communities hold theirs on the 8th. At 7.30pm, the torches are lit in the north-east mainland for the Nesting and Girlsta event. Half an hour later, they’ll get under way in Uyeasound, in Unst.

A week later, on the 15th at 8pm, it’s the turn of Northmavine, the district in the north-west mainland known for its spectacular coastline of cliffs, stacks and arches.

There are three festivals over the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd. On the 22nd, the Cullivoe Up Helly Aa, in Yell, begins at 7pm and it’s followed an hour later by Bressay, the island just east of Lerwick that’s known these days for Britain’s northernmost Parkrun. The following evening, Shetland’s northernmost Up Helly Aa, at Norwick in Unst, fires up at 7.30pm.

The last three fire festivals for 2019 will be in the South Mainland on 8th March, a junior one at Walls on the 9th and, bringing the season to an end, Delting, in the north mainland, on the 15th.

The rural fire festivals are smaller than Lerwick’s but have their own appeal; in all of them, the galley is burnt afloat, which always makes for a dramatic conclusion to the procession. So, if you want to be dazzled by the flares and torches, sing along to the songs, admire the guizers’ amazing outfits and the skill of the galley-builders, or indeed be awed by the sheer community effort that goes into all this, there’s still time.

With so much community energy going up in flames, you might think we’d not have much room in the diary for anything else. But people will be involved in lots of other community-led events throughout the month. Music is never far from our minds and the islands host all genres, from classical and jazz to folk, blues and heavy metal. The Shetland Mandolin Band will be meeting regularly: here they are playing a session at the 2017 Shetland Folk Festival. There’s also a very active Wellbeing Choir that has weekly sessions. There will also be various traditional music nights around the islands.

Among the exhibitions running during February is the quite outstanding Natural Selection, presented by father and son, Peter and Andy Holden; we visit it in this blog. Also on offer this month is photography by the Islesburgh Photographic Club, which taps into another pastime enthusiastically supported in the islands; you can see some of their past work here.

As always, there’s a great selection of events at Mareel, our arts centre. Cinema presentations include The Favourite, the black comedy featuring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone; Keira Knightley in Colette; and the compelling Mary Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. For a glimpse into more recent affairs of state, there’s Vice, Christian Bale’s portrayal of the “resilient, ruthlessly ambitious Dick Cheney”, dubbed the most powerful US Vice-President. For younger cinema-goers, The Lego Movie 2 and How to Train Your Dragon are sure to please.

Mareel also takes us on regular outings to the London stage and, on 17 February, we head to Shakespeare’s Globe for The Winter’s Tale, a production directed by Blanche McIntyre that explores the power of emotions via monsters, gods and natural disasters. It stars Will Keen, Priyanga Burford and Annette Badland.

We also see exhibitions on screen at Mareel and the next one, showing on 24 and 26 February, is Young Picasso, which gives us a glimpse of the artist’s early, formative years that led to his later, extraordinary success.

One date that will be in all our diaries will be Tuesday 12th February, when - at 9pm - the fifth series of BBC1's Shetland detective thriller gets under way, with Jimmy Perez back in action. You can see the BBC's first trailer for the series here. Tension - and cliffhangers - are guaranteed!

To all of that, we can add the lengthening days and the opportunities they bring to do more outdoors, whether walking our wonderful coastline (we have almost 1,700 miles of it) or perhaps beginning to tackle some tidying and preparation in the garden. And there’s still plenty of time to study the night sky, keeping an eye out for the occasional appearances of the aurora borealis.

Last but not least, if you're interested in attending the 39th Shetland Folk Festival at the beginning of May, do check out our blog about this year's line-up. There's infomation there, too, about the membership and ticketing arrangements: early membership and advance booking are strongly recommended.

We’ve lots to look forward to.

Posted in: Community

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