Our September 2019 Diary

by Alastair Hamilton -

September begins and ends with two of Shetland’s largest festivals, ScreenPlay and Shetland Wool Week respectively, and there’s a smaller one – the Shetland Songwriting Festival – in between. However, that’s by no means all that we have to look forward to.

ScreenPlay has been around for 13 years, and these days has the perfect home in our two first-class cinemas in Mareel. The festival is curated by the celebrated film historian, Linda Ruth Williams, film critic Mark Kermode and our own Jenny Leask. As always, this year’s festival includes not only many film screenings but also lectures and panel discussions involving national and international film professionals and academics. There are workshops and a quiz.

The festival has strong roots in the local community, too. Our own film makers have a platform for their work and the festival reaches out this year to local halls in Aith, in the west mainland, and Yell. Among the more unusual screenings is the 1922 version of Rob Roy, complete with live musical accompaniment. It’s a diverse offering that includes something for any film lover and you can find full details in the programme

It’s a diverse programme

There are two new strands this year. “Look South” (complementing the established “Look North”) features film from Australia and New Zealand. “Women’s Work” celebrates the work of female film-makers, and in fact more than half of the feature films in the entire programme are directed or co-directed by women.

Among those appearing in person this year is Sanjeev Bhaskar, whose screen credits include Notting Hill, Indian Doctor, Spamalot and the multi award winning The Kumars at No. 42. He’ll be talking about Yesterday (written by Richard Curtis and directed by Danny Boyle), in which he made a screen-stealing appearance, and his long career in both television and film.

Later in the month, the Shetland Songwriting Festival runs over the weekend of 20th – 22nd September. It brings outstanding tutors to the islands and the aim is to offer a friendly and relaxing setting in which to spark and develop ideas.

There are 12 hours of workshops and two concerts. They both feature well-known singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni and Louis Abbott, the songwriter in Glasgow-based band, Admiral Fallow. The workshops are open to anyone, whether they’re beginners or already experienced, and will explore song structure, lyrics, melody, metre and collaboration. The venue is The String in Lerwick, which brilliantly combines restaurant and intimate music venue. You can find out more on the festival website.

At the end of the month, and running until 6 October, Shetland will be host to hundreds of enthusiasts from all over the world, who’ll immerse themselves in Shetland Wool Week. Shetland is synonymous with fine wool and wonderful knitwear and lace; even so, the success of the festival has exceeded all expectations.

It’s a Shetland-wide celebration, with events throughout the islands that include exhibitions, classes, talks and workshops. The topics covered include weaving, spinning, dyeing and, of course, Fair Isle and lace knitting. This year’s patron is Oliver Henry, who has lived in Shetland all his life and was one of the founders of Wool Week. He has worked with sheep and wool for more than 50 years and his knowledge is encyclopaedic.

his knowledge is encyclopaedic

A look at any day’s programme gives some sense of the range of the festival. Take Monday 30th September, for example. The events include a natural and cultural heritage tour in the South Mainland; a workshop making Fair Isle patterns in glass; a talk by Oliver Henry about his work; a studio visit in Bressay and a croft tour there; a visit to Uradale Farm to learn about native Shetland sheep; circular weaving; cushion-cover making; mood boards and colour; button-making; Swedish twined knitting; lace knitting; brioche stitch; and that’s less than half of what’s on offer that day.

In between these three festivals, there are other diversions. The cinema programme at Mareel reverts to its regular and very appealing mix of current releases and classic films, such as Midnight Cowboy, now in a new, digital restoration.

Other events include the Yell Show on 7th September and there’s traditional music in Aith Hall on the 14th. Comedian James Acaster appears at Mareel on the 27th.

Liner visits continue, albeit not quite so frequently as in August. We’ll also be seeing the beautiful three-master, Statsraad Lehmkuhl, on two more occasions. Our restored sail-fishing boat, the Swan, has three cruises during the month that take in our north isles, the Skerries and the south mainland coast.

With the nights drawing in, many people will be taking up the opportunity to learn something new at our evening classes. They cover the arts, health and wellbeing, cookery, languages (including English for speakers of other languages), information technology, employability and community development skills. To take a few examples at random, the programme includes beginners watercolour painting; basic dressmaking; weaving; screenwriting; night sky photography; mindfulness; easy breadmaking; Spanish for beginners; communicating with confidence; introduction to Windows 10; and an introduction to fundraising.

Add to all of that the opportunities that exist for pursuing specialist interests, or giving back something to the community through volunteering, and it’s easy to understand why Shetland folk need big diaries.

Posted in: Community

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