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By Laurie GoodladOctober 7th 2020
Laurie Goodlad

This year, with mass gatherings cancelled, Taste of Shetland's annual food festival is going online.

As the nights begin to draa in and, in usual times, the summer visitors fly off with the summer seabirds, Shetland businesses and locals turn their attention to winter celebrations; a distraction from the long winter nights. One of the highlights of Shetland’s off-peak calendar is the annual Taste of Shetland Festival.

The festival is the foodie highlight of the year; showcasing the best of Shetland food and drink. Bringing together cooking demonstrations, a market for food producers, live entertainment and foodie inspiration, the festival is usually held in spacious Shetland venues where thousands of visitors attend the event over the course of a weekend.

This year, with mass gatherings cancelled, Taste of Shetland is extending the festival across the world in a special, four hour live online event which hopes to bring the best of Shetland food and drink into the homes and lives of people wherever they may be in the world.

The event which is to be held live on Taste of Shetland's Facebook page on 17 October will run between 11am and 3pm and will see cookery demonstrations, behind-the-scenes tours of local businesses and online tasting sessions with local food and drink producers as well as uplifting Shetland music.

Manager of Shetland Food and Drink, Claire White, says: "Our organisation and our members are stepping way out of their comfort zones in staging an online Taste of Shetland festival, but we feel that this is a risk worth taking. The event will offer something for everyone; Shetland fans worldwide, foodies, member businesses and locals seeking online family entertainment in the October school holidays. We hope to reach new audiences and explore new opportunities by staging an online event, and hopefully have fun along the way!"

The Shetland Food and Drink collective is made up of over 70 local businesses and their diverse membership means that there there will be a varied programme of content on offer when the festival goes live on the 17 October.

Viewers will be able to learn how some of Shetland’s leading producers make their products and dishes, enjoy live cooking demonstrations, hear culinary discussion and be entertained!

Cookery highlights of the day will include:

  • Shetland Food and Drink’s chairwoman, Marian Armitage who is set to make a showstopping stuffed ‘centrepiece’ monkfish tail alongside a more economical version using catfish or tusk
  • Chef Gary Maclean serves up some steamed Shetland mussels and grilled mackerel
  • Jakob Eunson serves up a delicious roasted lamb shoulder from Uradale Farm
  • Kirsten Williamson gives an Asian twist to leftover lamb with her Shetland lamb gyozas
  • Nicola Johnston of Island Larder prepares some of the Shetland Fudge Company’s best-loved treats
  • Suze Walker from Island Botanicals shows us how to make a special vinegar

As well as cooking and food inspiration, the festival aims to showcase Shetland as a foodie destination. Throughout the day, streaming will be brought from across Shetland and viewers will be able to indulge in some of Shetland’s unique and breathtaking landscapes and hear a little more about life in the isles.

Have you ever wondered what farming in Shetland is really like? @BigtonFarm will also be doing a live via Facebook, which viewers can participate in and ask any questions. Read more about the lasses who run Bigton Farm in this interview.

Perhaps you would like to pre-order some Shetland Fudge Company Puffin Poo, or a dram to have while you watch Shetland Reel’s gin session or Lerwick Brewery’s cocktail demo? Or maybe a herbal tea with Suze Walker? If so, visit their shops via the link.

Organisers hope that the event will be upbeat, fun, interactive and they can’t wait to share some of the best of Shetland’s food and drink with you.

This has been a tough year for local businesses who have faced many challenges, it is hoped that this online festival will showcase Shetland, our tremendous food and drink scene and give businesses the opportunity to make a few sales as products are brought to an international market. To see some of the members’ products, please visit the Taste of Shetland online shop.

Andy Steven of Shetland Webcams will be coordinating the technical aspects of the event, and Festival content will be both pre-recorded and live, with films being aimed at both local and global social media audiences.

Viewers can watch the event as it's streamed live on Taste of Shetland's Facebook page from 11am until 3pm on Saturday 17 October. The stream will be published on their YouTube channel afterwards.