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Our October 2019 Diary

by Alastair Hamilton -

Two of the largest events in the Shetland calendar take place in October but – even without them – the diary would be pretty busy.

The month begins with Shetland Wool Week, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a programme that’s bigger and more varied than ever. That’s just as well, because more wool and textile enthusiasts from all over the world make the pilgrimage to Shetland every year. Organisers at the Shetland Amenity Trust estimate that nearly 1,000 people will be attending this year, an increase of up to 50% on last year.

nearly 1,000 people will be attending this year

There are more than 400 events on offer, including tours, talks, exhibitions, workshops, a ‘Makers’ Market’ and craft fairs. There will also, of course, be lots of opportunities to meet fellow knitters and share ideas, patterns and techniques, particularly in the ‘hub’ in the Shetland Museum. It’s remarkable how quickly the event has become established on the international calendar. Each year the event has a local patron with this year’s patron, Oliver Henry, ‘Man of Wool’, proving a popular choice.

Victoria Tait, who manages the event on behalf of the Trust, says that Wool Week is now worth over £1m to the local economy, perhaps much more. “The profile of Shetland wool and Shetland itself has been raised dramatically by the event and can be seen in the growing demand for both Shetland wool and year-round textile tourism.”

Music is an essential ingredient in Shetland life and it comes in all flavours, from classical to heavy metal via jazz and African drumming. But the islands are especially well known for traditional music and those who love the fiddle and accordion hold the islands in high regard. Many of them , local and visiting, will be taking part in the annual Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival from the 10th until the 14th.

Bands or individual performers will be heading to the isles from far and wide. For example, three groups will be bringing tunes from across the Irish Sea. The music of County Clare and County Fermanagh features strongly in the playing of Emmet O’Halloran and Marty Dempsey and three of a family of four musicians, Aileen, Emma and Ciaran Fitzpatrick.

Tom Byrne and Ian Smith draw on the Donegal tradition, but their interests range across jazz, musette and swing. Travelling from Rome, Gianni Mirizzi is the second Italian accordionist to appear at the Festival. His repertoire encompasses a range of genres, including swing, jazz, blues, light, smooth and Latin American. From Norway, Oslo to be precise, the festival welcomes Bæljtrøkken, who focus on traditional Norwegian tunes.

Music is an essential ingredient in Shetland life

Concerts will take place in no fewer than 13 different venues, stretching from Bigton in the south mainland to Uyeasound in our northernmost island, Unst. Most of the concerts on the Thursday and Friday are outside Lerwick, but the town’s Clickimin Centre hosts the grand dance on the Saturday and there’s a final concert on the Sunday in the Garrison Theatre, rounding off what should be a really enjoyable weekend.

During the rest of the month, there are all sorts of other diversions, some of them run commercially but most organised by the wealth of local organisations that cover a huge range of interests.

If funk and soul are your thing, The String in Lerwick has a DJ night on the 4th, Beat Roots. Two local rock bands, First Foot Soldiers and The Dirty Lemons, will be raising the roof at the Hamnavoe Hall in Burra Isle on the 26th. More traditional soirees will be on offer on the 5th in the Sandness Hall, in the west mainland, where there’s a supper dance, and in the Aith Hall, also on the west side, which has an informal traditional music night.

The afternoon tea season hasn’t quite drawn to a close, with the Symbister Hall throwing in a Taste of Shetland cooking competition as a bonus on the 5th. Brae Hall has Sunday teas on the 6th and Dunrossness Hall is serving soup and savouries the same day.

If you fancy fish and chips, you can find them on the 12th, either at the very top of the north mainland, in the North Roe and Lochend Hall, or in the Voe Hall, where the haddock will no doubt enhance folks’ brain power for the quiz night which follows. Quiz nights are popular and there’s another, this time in Lerwick’s Sound Hall, on the 17th.

All sorts of other things will be drawing people into local halls during the month. To take another two examples, the Carnegie Hall in Sandwick will be the scene of intrigue on the 5th, when they’re indulging in a murder mystery night, Who Shot the Sheriff? Back in North Roe, on the same night, they’ll be holding a Primary School Talent Show, which – like many events in Shetland these days – is aimed at raising funds toward the installation of an MRI scanner at Lerwick’s Gilbert Bain Hospital, to complement the CT scanner that has been in operation for many years.

As always, our arts centre, Mareel, has a very full programme. The film highlights include Ad Astra, with Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland; The Shiny Shrimps, a French comedy that’s part of the Screen Pride strand; a return visit for The Lion King; Hustlers, with a cast headed by Jennifer Lopez; and the classic Apocalypse Now Final Cut. Other events at Mareel include learning sessions with the Shetland Youth Dance Company and a filmed concert featuring Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. You can find the entire programme online.

As October draws to a close, our younger folk will no doubt be raiding dressing-up boxes for their Halloween disguises and practising their party pieces, for guising seems to be as popular as ever. There will also be many Halloween parties, among which will be those already announced in Symbister, Whalsay, and on the island of Trondra.

For fuller listings, the What’s On Shetland website is an excellent starting point, but one of the joys of Shetland life is that so much also happens informally, which means that our own diaries are even fuller than this round-up suggests!

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