Our June 2019 Diary
by Alastair Hamilton -
It’s probably something to do with that more or less endless daylight that we enjoy in June and everyone’s desire to make the most of it; anyway, it’s a month when we seem to move from just being busy to hyperactivity.
Of course, not all of that summer bustle involves organised events. It’s usually quite a dry month and even the most reluctant walker, cyclist, or golfer is tempted out, not to mention the tennis players that are invariably drawn to the Lerwick courts, inspired by Wimbledon.
The boating and sailing season gets properly under way, too, and the sea is very much the focus for several of the planned events. On the 1st, Bigton, in the south-west mainland, kicked off with a rowing regatta at St Ninian’s Isle, a spectacular setting if ever there was one. The following day, the Lifeboat Gala Day was held at Aith, in the west mainland, where one of Shetland’s two lifeboats has its base.
By then, too, our sail training vessel, Swan, was on her way west from Orkney to St Kilda on a 10-day, 450-mile round trip. The Lerwick Lifeboat Open Day is on the 8th, as is another rowing regatta, this time in the north-eastern parish of Nesting.
Around the 10th, we can expect to see a fleet of seven historic Faroese wooden boats arrive in Lerwick on their way back home from Denmark. Organised by Felagið Føroysk Træseglskip, the islands’ wooden boat association, the boats include two that were built in England in 1884, the Westward Ho and the Johanna, both of which are no strangers to Lerwick during the summer months.
In fact, many boats were bought from the UK by the Faroese in the late 19th and early 20th century and links between these fishing communities were strong, as John Goodlad explains in The Cod Hunters, his fascinating account of that fishery. Shetland fishermen taught their Faroese counterparts the skill of deep-sea cod fishing, hence the demand for boats. There was also a great deal of smuggling; for more on the story, see my review of the book.
A week later, beginning on the 15th, Swan will be heading back home, cruising Orkney and Shetland waters on a leisurely 8-day voyage, and at the time of writing there were still places available aboard – the details are here.
The Trondra rowing race is on the 21st; Trondra is an island just south of Scalloway, linked by road bridges to both the mainland and West Burra.
On the 27th, a flotilla of yachts will arrive in Lerwick Harbour as the annual Bergen-Shetland race reaches its half-way point, with a weekend of relaxation and socialising to look forward to. They head back to Bergen on the 29th.
Bergen in Norway is much the same distance from Shetland as Aberdeen, and we don’t need a yacht to get there, as there are flights operated by Loganair to that very appealing city right through the summer, taking around an hour: scroll down this page to find out more about adding a perfectly feasible city break to a Shetland holiday.
Cruise ships will be frequent visitors to Lerwick’s harbour during June, with calls on 11 days. On six of those days, there will be at least two in port and things will be particularly busy on the longest day of the year, the 21st, when no fewer than four, the Astor, Oriana, Zuiderdam & Star Breeze, will be here.
There’s no lack of diversions for landlubbers, or indeed sailors in need of a break from the tiller. Anyone wanting to see some of the best of Shetland’s astonishingly diverse art and craft work should head north-west from Lerwick to the Bonhoga Gallery in Weisdale, always a delightful place to visit. The latest Shetland Made exhibition runs throughout the month and it features, as these shows always do, a really attractive selection of local work, all of which is for sale.
Over at the Shetland College, the annual show of art students’ work gets under way from the 7th and it’s always a varied and thought-provoking display.
An unusual exhibition venue will be in use during the month, when the Sixteen exhibition will appear on the hoardings around a building site in the centre of Lerwick. Internationally acclaimed photographer Craig Easton conceived this ambitious project following his engagement with sixteen-year-olds at the time of the Scottish referendum. It was the first, and as yet only, time that these young people were given the vote in the UK.
Building on the success of that work, he invited 16 of the UK’s foremost documentary portrait photographers to collaborate with young people across the country to make a visual vox pop on what it means to be sixteen now. The show includes portraits from Shetland alongside those from across the UK. Craig Easton will be running an accompanying portraiture workshop.
For young people interested in photography, Mareel will also be hosting Zoetrope Intensive, which is a two-day introduction to animation using the Zoetrope technique, which was invented more than 200 years ago and uses a spinning, circular device to create a moving image. Over the weekend of 1st and 2nd June, Dr Marianne McAra from Glasgow School of Art will teach the skill and the group will explore young people’s ideas, experience and perceptions of local heritage as they make a short film about it.
That’s by no means all the arts-based activity during the month. On the 4th, there’s a creative lab focusing on acting and performance skills and there are weekly meetings of the creativity club devoted to film.
Speaking of which, there’s the usual varied cinema programme, with a blend of current releases, arthouse and classics. The mainstream offerings include the new Elton John biopic, Rocketman; The Secret Life of Pets; Fisherman’s Friends; Godzilla, King of the Monsters; Aladdin; X-Man: Dark Phoenix; and Men in Black:International.
The more unusual choices include a re-release of the Japanese Maborosi; a return visit for the seabed drama, Last Breath; Beats, set in the Scottish 90s rave scene; Greta, an “over the top suspense thriller” set in New York; and a documentary, Amazing Grace, featuring Aretha Franklin in performances recorded in 1972 but only now being shown, because the reels had been lost.
There’s also another of the Exhibition on Screen series, this one focused on Van Gogh and Japan.
Students from Shetland College link film and music on the 6th, when they screen the films they’ve made in the cinema and then entertain us with a musical showcase in the auditorium.
Visitors often ask where they can track down Shetland’s traditional music. Well, there’s lots on offer during the month. Islesburgh Community Centre presents its summer Shetland Showcase on the 3rd, 10th and 17th, a chance to see and hear some of Shetland’s best known local musicians, such as Fjanna, the Heritage Fiddlers, Bryan Gear, Violet Tulloch and Brian Morrison.
There are other traditional music nights, too, in Aith on the 8th and Asta Golf Clubhouse on the 20th. The Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Club play their summer concert in the Garrison Theatre on the 19th and for those who lean towards country styles, there’s a Johnny Cash Tribute with Kevin Lovatt and the JCT Band in Clickimin Bowls Hall on the 13th. Another tribute night, this time involving Elvis Presley’s music, is in Mareel on the following night; it features Johnny Lee Memphis.
There’s a special treat for contemporary folk fans, with a visit to Mareel on the 13th by Lau, who’ve earned plaudits all over the UK and beyond for what a Guardian reviewer described as their “gritty, roaming lyricism”, in live shows “brilliant as much for their restraint as their exuberance”.
Another Guardian reviewer hailed them as “the UK’s best live band”, a deserved accolade given that the band has won the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards several times and singer-songwriter Chris Drever has also picked up prizes on his own account. It promises to be a terrific night.
It would be a mistake, though, to think that local music is all of the traditional sort. There are classical players, jazz players, choirs and plenty of rock and pop, too. A band that’s very popular in Shetland, and deservedly so, are First Foot Soldiers, a combo formed in 2010. They play a wide range of classic rock and pop from the 20th century and they’re having their Midsummer Spree in Mareel on the 22nd.
You can hear them with the opening tracks from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They’ll be supported by the Isaac Webb Trio, another local band that does a very nice line in rockabilly and rhythm ‘n’ blues.
In a different vein, there’s another delight at Mareel on the 30th, when we’ll be able to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake in a performance filmed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. His production , a powerful interpretation of Tchaikovsky's beloved tale, was first staged 24 years ago. Now, it’s back, refreshed for the 21st century and as daring and beautiful as ever.
This thrilling, audacious and witty production is perhaps still best known for replacing the female corps-de-ballet with a menacing male ensemble, which shattered convention, turned tradition upside down and took the dance world by storm.
This isn’t the first Matthew Bourne production to be seen in Shetland. Last year, Scottish Ballet brought his Highland Fling, Bourne’s reworking of La Sylphide, for a live (and memorable) performance at the Clickimin Centre.
That’s not all that’s happening this month, not by a long way. For example, local mental health charity Mind Your Head organised its annual Fun Run and Walk in the south mainland village of Cunningsburgh on the 2nd, with afternoon teas. Indeed, teas in local halls, organised by volunteers to raise funds for good causes, are an established part of the Shetland summer; back in 2009, they featured on BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme.
Lots of other local events are scheduled for June, such as the Shetland Dog Club’s annual show on the 2nd and the Shetland Classic Car Club’s autojumble the same day. There are two summer carnivals to look forward to: in Burravoe, Yell, there’s one on the 8th and Lerwick’s takes place on the 15th. There are two charity balls during the month; and many other events, such as barbeques and beach parties, will simply pop up when the sun shines,.
Let’s hope it does!
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