By JIM TAIT
The Nesting and Girlsta Up-Helly-A’, which was cancelled at the weekend because of bad weather, has been rescheduled for Friday 13th March.
The North and South Nesting Public Halls will both be open as usual with the guizers’ hop taking place the following night in the North Nesting Hall.
However, it is unclear whether all the squads will take part, due to bad feeling which erupted following the cancellation.
Some participants are angry over being excluded from a party on Saturday evening, hastily arranged to replace the hop which was also called off. They organised an alternative event and it was so successful they say they might not take part in the main festival again.
The procession, galley burning and hall festivities on Friday were all cancelled due to the snowy weather, with road conditions deteriorating and police stopping buses from leaving Lerwick. Twelve squads of 156 guizers had been due to take part.
A meeting the following day, attended by Guizer Jarl Dave Phillips and committee members, decided that the hop, due to be held in the North Nesting Hall, should also be abandoned. Instead it was agreed to hold a private party for the Jarl’s Squad in the South Nesting Hall.
A Nesting guizer, who asked not to be named, said committee members called around the various squads to advise them that there was to be a party and admission was by invitation only. Squads from far afield as Burra were invited but some of the local squads and guizers from North Nesting, South Nesting and Vidlin were excluded and even one of the committee members was not invited.
The guizer said: “Many of the guizers who had been excluded were very disappointed as they had spent a lot of time and effort on their acts and props (including a lifeboat and helicopter).
“One of them had worked away from home over Christmas in order to be off for the festival and another had flown home especially for the weekend.
“Many others had taken time off their work and all had significant expenditure with their suits, fees, torch fees, hiring of minibuses, etc.”
The guizer said that as so many of them had been excluded from the private party they decided to have an Up-Helly-A’ of their own and on Saturday afternoon set about making torches and a large bonfire.
There was a mad rush finding material for the torches and knocking them together but all was ready for the evening. A jarl was chosen and he wore a suit which was last used 15 years ago.
The alternative light-up was at 8pm and the procession of 30 guizers aged from 10 up to 70 followed the jarl’s chariot “sungaets” [clockwise] around the township of Skellister to the burning sight in front of a house known as the Blue Doo’s.
They guizers sang the customary songs and, after a round of three cheers for the jarl, Up-Helly-A’ and the torch makers, the torches were thrown on to the bonfire. The festivities continued well into the night at the Blue Doo’s and some of the private party goers were made welcome as they made their way home from the hall.
The guizer said the evening was very successful. It would probably be repeated next year as it was likely that many of the guizers and squads “snubbed” this year would not participate in the main festival in 2010.
Another veteran of the festival agreed it had been a poor decision to hold the private function. The hop could have gone ahead as planned and the burning could have taken place beforehand, with everybody accommodated. The decision had caused a lot of bad feeling.
Committee secretary Mike Cunynghame said he had “no comment” to make.
Following a meeting on Wednesday the committee issued the following statement: “The Nesting and Girlsta Up-Helly-A’ Committee would like to apologise unreservedly for any upset caused by the decisions made over the Nesting and Girlsta Up-Helly-A’ weekend.
“The committee has decided to hold Up-Helly-A’ on Friday 13th March 2009. Both halls will be open. The hop will be held on Saturday 14th March in the North Nesting Public Hall. All tickets are valid for the venues as purchased.
“Any refunds required may be obtained between 9.30am and 11am on Saturday 28th February in the South Nesting Public Hall. Anyone unable to attend the hall on that date can obtain a refund by sending his/her ticket(s) to Andy Bradley, Vardasta, Gletness, South Nesting, ZE2 9PS, enclosing a self-addressed envelope, before Sunday 1st March.”
Squad leaders are asked to contact Pat Read on (01595) 840405 by Monday 2nd March to confirm their participation or to organise a refund for guizing fees.
“We very much appreciate your understanding and hope for your continued support,” the statement continued.
The guizers’ dance scheduled for Saturday 21st February 2009 has been cancelled.