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Up Helly Aa 2018: a media round up

by Louise Thomason -

It may be a local festival, but Up Helly Aa is a spectacular event: as Europe's largest fire festival it is one that receives a huge amount of media attention.

This year, we created a rolling live blog at a new site – – to cover the event, pulling in highlights from social media and news sources, and included video highlights from footage created by the Promote Shetland team on the day.

Several short films, including interviews with many of those involved in the festival - from the Jarl and his sons to the torch makers and the junior Jarl - and visitors to Shetland who travelled up especially to witness Up Helly Aa, were uploaded.

The site will remain live and will be updated with any new content that becomes available, including highlights of Shetland's other Up Helly Aa festivals which will run until March.

A special four minute guide to Up Helly Aa was also put together, explaining everything you need to know about how the festival operates, and has so far been viewed 200,000 times – and counting!

We also had two locals take part in an Instagram takeover – you can see their photos here, and highlights from stories are still up on the Promote Shetland Instagram account.


Several local photographers were out to capture scenes - David Gifford has a splendid gallery of the daytime and evening processions (click right to see more).

Photographer Chris Brown has an extensive album which follows the Jarl squad the entire 24hrs, and has some interesting behind the scenes shots.

John Coutts had a busy day, and has a huge range of photos in his online gallery, including official photos of the all the squads.

Most of the UK's top media sites provided coverage of the festival: BBC Scotland created an impressive and innovative 360° video of the day, allowing viewers to view Up Helly Aa like never before – from the inside!

There are image galleries to be found on the The Guardian and The Herald; while The Press and Journal featured several stories, videos and galleries about the festival, from preparations for the day and the daytime procession to snapshots of squad members making their way home the morning after.

STV had several video reports, including coverage from reporter Ben Phillip who was in the isles and caught footage of one of the highlights of this year's halls – the surprise appearance of X Factor star Wagner.

There was also a guide to Up Helly Aa created by YouTube travel vlogger Lil Rowan, who did a great job of summarising the festival in her light-hearted Idiot's Guide video.

As in previous years, the evening procession was again covered by a live broadcast, which was streamed to tens of thousands of people across the world.

Did you watch the footage? Or have you seen any international coverage that passed us by? If so, we'd love it if you got in touch and let us know, via any of our social media channels.

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