A growing community fire festival held each February on Shetland's east Mainland.

9 Feb 2024

Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa was held for the first time in 1961. Its beginnings lie in the revelry of New Year 1961, when a group of friends, sad to see the festive season come to an end, suggested an Up Helly Aa festival be started as a means to carry on the party: the inaugural event was held in February of that year. Initially it was a small affair, with 50 of guizers.

The first festival – much like others across the isles – was very much a homemade event, with costumes, props and even the galley being built from donated materials. The torches were made from driftwood, old clothes and coal sacks and donated paraffin from the Friester shop. The Jarl’s helmet was constructed from half an aluminium buoy (with real raven wings attached). The Jarl made the head and tail for the galley and attached it to an old boat donated for the cause.

By their own admission, the committee say the festival took a while to catch on, and it was 1975 before things really got under way; but since then the festival has been a popular annual occurrence, and now encompasses the villages of Whiteness and Weisdale.

From the outset, the festival has included female guizers and committee members.