The Shetlanders: the multi-tasking maestro

Meet Liam Brannan, who it’s fair to say is busier than most 20-year-olds. When he’s not working as a junior technician at Mareel, Lerwick’s airy modern arts centre, he’s a youth worker at the youth club in Cunningsburgh, on the south of Shetland’s Mainland. Oh, and he also carries a pager in his role as a volunteer coastguard rescue officer, which could go off at any moment.

Much of Liam’s career has been bound up with Mareel, which is an educational space as well as a gig venue, recording space, gallery and cinema. When he left school at the end of Fourth Year, he studied for his NC in music here, making use of the state-of-the-art facilities. “There aren’t very many places where you can actually study in a working music venue, where there are people in every day doing the stuff that you eventually want to be doing,” he says. “It was so inspiring.”

Now, after doing an apprenticeship that included studying sound engineering, he’s a key part of the team when musicians or theatre performers come to Shetland — responsible for load-ins and lighting, as well as assisting experienced sound technician Tim Matthew. When pop-rock band Scouting for Girls played at Mareel, they were so impressed with Liam’s lighting that they invited him on their next UK tour.

“When you do a gig, there’s a lot of pressure on you,” he says. “But I have that experience on the job. This place has been brilliant for me.”

A week before we met in May 2018, he was in charge of logistics while the team rescued a teenage boy trapped on a 130-foot cliff near the north of Shetland’s Mainland. The dramatic four-hour rescue, carried out in pitch darkness, was reported by the Daily Mail. “You get a real sense of satisfaction when you help with something like that,” he says.

Liam wanted to work at the youth club because it helped him, especially after his father passed away when he was 12. “The youth club became really important to me,” he says. “I’ve always thought we’re lucky to have these spaces where you can just go and relax, and be accepted. It felt natural to want to help at the youth club, because it helped me so much.”