June 2010 Newsletter
Here is our newsletter from June 2010. We hope you find it of interest. If you're considering a move to Shetland, please don't hesitate to contact us for more advice using either the contact details at the end of this Newsletter, or you can reach us via the contact page on the Shetland.org website.
A distinguished architect, Richard Gibson, who made the move to Shetland 42 years ago, has been presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award, Scottish architecture’s highest accolade. The award, from the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), recognises Mr Gibson’s work on many restoration and conversion projects throughout Shetland. Presenting the award at the RIAS annual Convention at the Tolbooth in Stirling, RIAS President David Dunbar commented: “There are many prizes for architecture which recognise the qualities of an individual building but very few which celebrate a lifelong commitment to excellence in design, which is acknowledged in this award. Recognition from your peers is perhaps the greatest accolade anyone can receive.”
Mr Gibson, born in London in 1935, was inspired to study at the Architectural Association after seeing the preparations for the Festival of Britain, held in 1951. He later worked for British Railways and for councils in Middlesex, Hampstead and Camden, where he became Principal Architect, before deciding to settle in Shetland in 1968, as Depute County Architect. After working for the local council for four years, he established his private practice.
The range of work undertaken by Richard Gibson Architects has been very wide, encompassing both new-build and painstaking restoration of historic buildings. The tiny Hanseatic Booth at Symbister on the island of Whalsay was immaculately restored to form a museum telling the story of Shetland’s strong connections with the Hanseatic League. His primary school at Hamnavoe won a commendation from the Royal Institute of British Architects, its form disguising the scale of the building by echoing the small-scale architecture of the old village. Many other projects won awards or commendations for the sensitive but never slavish way in which they were woven into Shetland’s built fabric. Richard Gibson has made, and continues to make, an outstanding contribution to the quality of Shetland’s landscape and townscape.
A new business network that focuses on exchanging experiences and common opportunities for new Shetland businesses has just been launched in Shetland. The Shetland New Business Network is the first self-supporting group for business in the islands. It will provide anyone who has ambitions to start their own business, and anyone who has recently started a new business, with an opportunity to come together through a series of informal business evenings. Members will be able to learn how others have dealt with the pressures of starting up in business, find out what support is available in Shetland and from outside Shetland and identify common issues that can be explored with professional help.
During the inaugural evening, successful Shetland entrepreneurs described the highs and lows of starting a small business, explaining what inspired them, the obstacles they faced and what they would do differently if they were to start again. Douglas Irvine, Head of Business Development for Shetland Islands Council, said that the idea had come from some of the people who had been using the existing Business Gateway service.
Shetland children have had the chance to see imaginative children’s theatre as part of the 21st Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival. Created especially for 9 - 12 year olds, The Ballad of Pondlife McGurk is a tale of friendship and the complex pressures of school, presented by Scottish theatre company Catherine Wheels, whose play, ‘Martha’ drew warm praise from local audiences on their last visit to the islands.
Every two years, enthusiasts make their way to Shetland for one of Britain’s major shows of classic vehicles. The show, which runs from 3 to 8 June 2010, is presented by the Shetland Classic Car Club and Shetland Classic Motorcycle Club. Shetland has many classic vehicles and enthusiastic restorers. The displays always contain a fascinating range of cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles, stationary engines, bicycles and models. Although the show is based at the Clickimin Centre in Lerwick, tours are organised around the islands in classic vehicles, allowing visitors to appreciate every aspect of Shetland.
It’s expected that a highlight will be a collection of steam engines, waggons and lorries from the Bon Accord Steam Club in North East Scotland. Mobile steam engines have never been in Shetland, with the exception of a road roller very many years ago, and the show committee have been keen to bring one north, so that visitors to the show can appreciate the power and magnificence of these machines. Most of the machines were produced during the 1920s and cover a variety of makes and types of appliance. Approximately 9 tons of coal is likely to be consumed during the four days in Shetland and one of the show’s organisers, Maurice Mullay, said that this would be a unique opportunity to see the engines in their full glory and in full operational mode. ‘The steam, smoke and sound of the engines is equally as impressive as the sight of them’, he added.
Christie Williamson, a poet from the island of Yell, is joint winner of the 10th annual Callum Macdonald Memorial Award, a competition for poetry pamphlets. His pamphlet, Arc o Möns, is unusual in that it is a collection of poems translated from the Spanish writings of Federico García Lorca into Shetland dialect. The collection was edited by another Shetland poet, Christine de Luca, and there are illustrations by an Orkney artist, Diana Leslie. The publisher, Hansel, is a small, not-for-profit cooperative of writers and artists specialising in literary and artistic works from the northern isles.
Mr Williamson studied Spanish at university and was curious to explore the translation of Spanish literature into the Shetland dialect. Reviewers have been generous in their praise. Lyn Moir said that she had read many translations of Lorca’s poems but it had never occurred to her that the best and closest in spirit to the original would be not into English, but Shetlandic. Anna Crowe was most impressed by the music of the poetry and the strong rhythms that, she said, match the power of the original. She felt that the Shetlandic long vowels ‘contribute greatly to this.’ Arc o Möns is available from bookshops in Shetland but bookshops elsewhere may be able to order it: the ISBN is 978-0-9558414-4-6.
Inspectors from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) have published the findings from their visit to Uyeasound Primary School, on Shetland’s most northerly inhabited island, Unst. They found that the school offered excellent, stimulating learning and that there had also been outstanding work on the curriculum and on improvement through self-evaluation. The school staff shared a strong commitment to development and the Head Teacher was praised for her ‘creative vision’. The inspectors made only one suggestion, which was to ‘continue to improve the school as planned’. Uyeasound Primary School has just ten pupils. After Primary Seven, they transfer to the Baltasound Junior High School, a few miles to the north. Students continuing into fifth and sixth years then move to Lerwick’s Anderson High School.
During May, Shetland became one of the first areas in Scotland to have an entirely digital television service. All the transmitters in the islands have been converted to the new standard and, depending on which transmitter they use, viewers can now receive up to 47 television channels, 24 radio stations and three interactive services. The old analogue service has been switched off. The changeover, which was accompanied by extensive local publicity, appears to have gone very smoothly.
When Shetland’s new Museum and Archives was built at the historic Hay’s Dock in Lerwick, an old stone store, dating from around 1830, was also carefully refurbished and it is currently the setting for an unusual exhibition by a local artist, Hilary Seatter. Ms Seatter has called the project ‘Vyeshch’ and she explains that it’s ‘a Russian word that means ‘thing’ or ‘object’, a thing with soul, something infused with personality through its history and its personal meaning’. In this case, the images that she has created stem from her work as a barista specialising in producing gourmet coffee at events in Shetland, and indeed an espresso machine takes centre stage in the display. What’s particularly noteworthy is the range of techniques Ms Seatter has used, which include combinations of long exposure pinhole photography, darkroom processing, computer-aided design, digital print and borrowed images. She has printed the images onto silk panels and some of these are mounted in groups of three, one behind another, so that when viewed from the front they produce a remarkable impression of depth. No doubt there will be many who will want to take up Ms Seatter’s invitation to ‘join me in a walk through my imagination’, and as visitors wander among the suspended panels, that is exactly what they experience.
Just across the dock from the Pier House, the gallery in the Shetland Museum is showing a rich and varied collection of work by John Cumming and Frances Pelly, who studied together in the 1960s and who have subsequently collaborated on several projects or exhibitions. John Cumming was born in Shetland and eventually settled in Orkney, where he taught art until retiring recently. He creates abstract sculpture using the kinds of material with which he grew up in his native Burra Isle, including wood, iron, stone, hemp and leather. He enjoys combining these textures in pure forms. Frances Pelly hails originally from Edinburgh and has practised sculpture since graduation. Like John Cumming, she’s fascinated by the contrasting textures and colours of natural materials. For this exhibition, she has produced small sculptures and carved stone pieces, some featuring Shetland dialect in the form of Haiku (the Japanese style of short poetry). It’s a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable exhibition.
Last month, we reported that young swimmers from Shetland had won no fewer than nine medals at a competition in Glasgow. That was a considerable achievement but, at another competition recently held in Aberdeenshire, they managed to amass a grand total of 23 medals, made up of six gold, ten silver and seven bronze, as well as notching up no fewer than 31 personal bests. Clearly, the investment in facilities and training in Shetland is reaping remarkable rewards.
Between 14 and 26 June, more than 500 Shetlanders from all over the world will be welcomed back to the islands in the 2010 Hamefarin, a festival that will help them renew lost connections, be absorbed in the culture and heritage of Shetland and enjoy a very special holiday. Hamefarers are expected from as far afield as Australasia and North America. For many, this visit to Shetland will be the first they’ve ever made to the land of their forebears. Normally held every 25 years, with previous ones held in 1960 and 1985, a special Hamefarin was also arranged for the millennium in 2000.
The 2010 event is expected to see the largest number of visitors yet. There are details on the Hamefarin website, including a packed programme of events. It encompasses talks, tours, sailing trips, music, dancing and a tournament featuring the ancient board game of Hnefatafl. There will also, of course, be a Viking parade to give visitors a taste of the winter Up Helly Aa festival. It promises to be a colourful, sociable and thoroughly memorable occasion.
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The Team at Shetland.org
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Shetland Islands Council, Solarhus, North Ness, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0LZ, UNITED KINGDOM