By LOUISE THOMASON
Fire festival enthusiasts have another date to add to their calendars after it was confirmed that the first South Mainland Up-Helly-A’ will take place next year.
A steering group was initially set up to get the ball rolling and a general meeting held to try to establish how much support a festival in the south end would have. The organisers said they were astounded at the initial level of interest, with nearly 30 potential squads registering.
A well-attended meeting was held on Monday night at the Sandwick Social Club to iron out the details of the festival, which will take place on 12th March, 2010.
The first three jarls and the committee were elected, the constitution decided on and dates confirmed.
Covering the entire south end of Shetland, from Gulberwick and south, the festival will be split into five areas: Gulberwick and Quarff; Cunningsburgh; Sandwick; Levenwick and Bigton; and Boddam, Quendale and Virkie.
Details of the constitution were also worked out and it was decided that committee members will be elected at an annual meeting, with one member from each of the five areas. A further seven will be elected from any of the five areas.
The jarl will represent a different area each year and the position will be open to anyone aged over 18 from one the five districts.
After Monday’s elections the first South Mainland Jarl, for 2010, will be David Smith. The next two “jarls elect” are Brydon Robertson for 2011 and Kevin Adamson for 2012.
Mr Smith, 45, is originally from Sandwick but now lives at Maywick, Bigton. He said being elected jarl was quite a surprise for him.
“I wasn’t really expecting to be quite so heavily involved from the outset and would have quite happily sat as a member of an organising committee.”
Although he had not envisaged being the first jarl, he was keen to be involved and thought it was important the South Mainland had a fire festival.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Up-Helly-A’s. I feel they evoke a community spirit which is one of the things I find most appealing about Shetland life. It’s also quite exciting to be in on something from its conception.
“[I’m] looking forward to it, with trepidation. It’s a step into the unknown for me as I’ve never been in any Jarl’s Squad anywhere.
“It’ll be a steep learning curve but I’m sure I’ll be able to call upon family, friends and acquaintances for any assistance required. In addition, I’m happy that we’ll have a strong committee supporting the festival.”
Brydon Robertson, 34, from Dalsetter Wynd, Dunrossness, said being elected as a future jarl was pretty unexpected.
“I’m quite proud. I was in the steering group and keen to get it started but wasn’t thinking to be so heavily involved. But I’m blyde to be nominated.”
Mr Robertson said he didn’t know who he would have in his squad as it was still a while away.
The third jarl to be elected was Kevin Adamson, 43, from Cunningsburgh. He was also quite surprised to be elected but is glad he has a few years to prepare.
“I’m delighted . . . I didn’t expect it. I’d rather it was the third year than the first. I’ve got plenty of time to get organised.”
Mr Adamson said it was “early days” to be thinking about squad members.
The next step for the committee will be working out the details of the event, such as where the mustering, procession and galley burning will take place and activities throughout the day.
Mr Smith said he and the committee realise there will be a lot of work involved.
“There’s a lot of unknowns at the moment and we appreciate that we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us to make sure it succeeds.”
Another committee meeting is planned to decide on halls and numbers of squads.
Steering group member Robert Halcrow said at Monday’s meeting that the group was not sure of how much interest there would be at first. However, as almost 30 squads have been registered so far the committee may have to look at increasing the number of guizers in each squad.
Mr Smith agreed, saying the group were originally unsure of how many folk would be interested. To have the large numbers of people who did turn out and also register squad interest was very encouraging.
Information, news and contact details will be posted on the group’s website at www.southmainlandup hellyaa.co.uk