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By Genevieve WhiteNovember 20th 2023

Shetland’s vibrant arts and crafts community comes together each winter, offering many opportunities to explore your creativity while socialising on the colder, darker evenings.

Chillier temperatures and shorter days are often associated with hibernation. Not so in Shetland, where winter activities are a far cry from bingeing on box sets* and getting into full goblin mode. Instead, the colder months are a cosy, sociable time, where locals fill the hours of darkness with creative pursuits from crafting to creative writing.

The islands are rightly celebrated for their vibrant arts and crafts scene, and there are countless opportunities to try your hand at everything from jewellery-making to glass-making. In the heart of Lerwick, you can try pottery painting and get crafty over coffee and cake – perfect if you want a bit of relaxing ‘me time’. Or what about making your very own ring at a jewellery workshop? Perhaps you fancy crafting a fused glass coaster or hanger on Shetland’s most northerly isle?

Whatever arty activity you’d like to try, Shetland’s got your back.

Arts & Crafts

In recent years, artist-led social enterprise Gaada has emerged as a lively hub of community art, organising workshops on screen-printing, zine making and more. This not-for-profit community interest company also provides regular one-to-one workshops for artists with additional support needs.

There’s a cornucopia of community crafting activities available all over Shetland too. For instance, you could take the short ferry ride from Lerwick to Bressay and while away an afternoon in the island’s community café making Christmas decorations from upcycled materials. Or why not visit one of the fortnightly art sessions in Levenwick Community Hall?

Keep your eyes open for postings on Facebook and in the local press and you’ll find there’s nearly always a creative community activity you’d be welcome to join.

Local art development agency Shetland Arts delivers a host of creative opportunities too. Over winter, popular well-being craft classes offer participants the opportunity for self-expression in a supportive and welcoming environment. There are also one-off events, such as Make your Own Ceramic Crofthouse and Christmas Printing.

Shetland Library also offers a lively programme of events throughout winter. This month has seen a packed schedule of creative activities (all free) from open mic nights to crafting picture messages in bottles. These activities related to Book Week Scotland, but community events take place throughout winter and beyond.

And if writing is your thing, you’ll find a warm welcome in local writers’ groups. Lerwick Writers’ group and Unst Writers’ groups both meet monthly and there are also weekly well-being writing classes organised by Shetland Arts.

Shetland knitting and textiles

Of course, it would be impossible to write about winter and creativity in Shetland without mentioning knitting, or ‘makkin’, as it is known in our dialect.

‘Makkin and yakkin’ (knitting and chatting) groups are found in community halls around the islands. These are a staple of the winter months in Shetland, offering knitters of all generations the chance to come together, and put the world to rights over a knitting session.

Over wintertime Peerie Maakers, a group dedicated to teaching children traditional hand-knitting skills, visits schools around the islands, in its continued effort to keep this vital part of Shetland’s heritage alive and kicking.


Music is key to lightening up these dark winter nights, and there are so many opportunities to get involved in the local music scene, whatever your musical taste.

The music school at High Level Music offers expert music tuition in a range of instruments if you want to hone your music skills over the winter months, and there are countless number music tutors offering lessons all over Shetland.

The community choir, the Shetland Community Orchestra, the Shetland Community Brass Band, Lerwick Brass Band and the Shetland Mandolin Band are just some of the musical groups who welcome new members.

Theatre and drama

If treading the boards is more your thing, you’ll be pleased to hear that Shetland’s vibrant drama scene ignites over the winter months.

The long nights provide plenty of opportunity for rehearsing – not just for Christmas pantomimes, but in preparation for the Shetland County Drama Festival which takes place at the end of winter each year.

If you’re new to Shetland, you’ll find you’re welcomed with open arms, as new talent is always welcome. And with drama groups dotted around the islands, you’ll never have far to travel.

Get cocooned in creativity

Whatever your interest, you’ll find that a Shetland winter will give you the time, space and opportunity to develop it along with other like-minded people and have plenty of fun along the way. Winter is not so much about hibernation then, as it is about cocooning yourself in creative endeavour, and emerging into spring with a clutch of new strings added to your bow.

What creative pursuits would you follow over a Shetland winter?

* If you do fancy watching a box set, we recommend catching up on old episodes of the BBC Shetland crime drama series. Or you could read Ann Cleeves’ ‘Jimmy Perez’ books that inspired the TV show. Discover more about the story behind the drama at our page devoted to all things “Shetland”.

Life in Shetland

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