26th September 2016
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Up-Helly-A’ needs to change with the times, Althing believes

At the Althing debate are (from left) Ryan Taylor, Helen Robertson, chairwoman Karen Fraser, Erik Moncrieff and Emma Williamson. Photo: Stephen Gordon

At the Althing debate are (from left) Ryan Taylor, Helen Robertson, chairwoman Karen Fraser, Erik Moncrieff and Emma Williamson. Photo: Stephen Gordon

The Lerwick Up-Helly-A’ needs to move with the times and embrace gender equality – that was the general feeling of last night’s Althing debate.

The monthly event, the penultimate of this session (next month’s election hustings on 16th April at the Tingwall Hall will be the finale) saw around 60 people attending at Lerwick’s Staney Hill Hall.

After what was described as the usual brief annual general meeting, with all office-bearers re-elected unnopposed, the main business began.

The motion was “It’s time gender equality reached Lerwick Up-Helly-A’ ” and in the chair was librarian and Lerwick Community Council member Karen Fraser, who introduced the four main speakers. A straw poll before the debate had 18 in favour, 10 against and five undecided.

First off for the motion was Helen Robertson, who famously got a firm refusal when she asked to participate in Lerwick’s junior fire festival during her schooldays.

Helen’s arguments were well put and many in the audience felt they were difficult to disagree with.

The first speaker against the motion was Erik Moncrieff, describing himself as an “Up-Helly-A’ anorak”, who was adamant there would be no change to the Lerwick festival. There was just no more room for any more guizers, male or female, he said.

Backing the motion was Shetland Times reporter Ryan Taylor, wearing an unusual T-shirt with the words emblazoned “careful … or you might end up in my novel”. He mentioned the irony of “men seeking to accentuate their female side” in this “flagship winter spree”.

Emma Williamson rose to the challenge at the last minute to replace Sandra Summers in opposing the motion. She gave a passionate defence of the status quo.

After the obligitary tea and bannocks the debate was thrown open to the audience. There were several good points made, mainly in favour of the motion, which resulted in the final voting tally of 27 for, 15 against and again five undecided.

• See full report in next week’s Shetland Times.

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