Isles Views 15.05.09

Out of the Box conference

Last weekend’s “Taking Shetland Out of the Box” at Shetland Museum took a close look at many aspects of island culture and the Shetland identity, with a great deal of North Isles interest.

Many made the trip to Lerwick to listen to at least some of the many lectures given by folk, some who are local and some who travelled from distant parts of the world. The North Isles produced participants who made a valuable contribution to the gathering.

Last Friday Uyeasound School head teacher Kate Coutts chaired the session immediately after the opening address by conference organiser Adam Grydehøj.

On Saturday Kate had her own lecture to deliver and it dealt with the question of using culture, heritage and the environment to develop educational leadership in the three island communities. Also chairing a session was Eileen Brooke-Freeman of Shetland Amenity Trust with her speciality the place names of Shetland. Her parents Louis and Lilias Johnson live in Otterswick, Yell.

I had my own modest part to play in being the guide on the wet and blustery coach tour to Eshaness on the Thursday and along with fellow storyteller Davy Cooper joined Valentina Bold and Michael Given from Glasgow University on Sunday morning in a discussion panel “Obdee, Storytelling, Community and Connectivity”. Liz Tulloch, also from Yell, contributed some trowie tunes on the fiddle.

Dr Bold arrived early because she wanted to revisit Yell; despite the fact that she has travelled widely she says that Yell is one of her favourite places. Dr Given joined her in making a brief visit, in the rain, to the Sands of Breckon, her very favourite place. She took a small amount of sand in a plastic bottle to pass around the audience.

Ian Russell from Aberdeen University’s Elphinstone Institute, with his wife Norma, also visited Yell and Unst, while Katarina Juvancic from the University of Ljubljana was another who made the trip north. Kat, as she is known to her friends, is a lover of the Shetland Folk Festival which was the subject of her talk.

Also at the conference was Terry Gunnell from the University of Iceland. A few years ago he spent time in Yell, Unst and Fetlar studying guizing and groliks and the like earning him the title of “the guising professor”.

Bo Almqvist is now retired but he lives in Ireland. He gave the final keynote address on three well-known folk tales. This time, however, he has chosen to visit Foula and Whalsay instead of his usual stamping grounds in the north.

It’s a knockout

An “It’s a Knockout” and a concert and dance was held in Mid Yell recently to raise funds for the CLAN 1,2,3 appeal. Taking part were teams from Yell Badminton Association, Yell Football Association, Yell Health Centre and the teachers from the Mid Yell Junior High School. It was a fun day with little matter who won.

In the evening the variety concert was just that, lots of variety. Taking part were the Mid Yell Choir, Mairi Coutts, No Sweat, Norma Farmer, the Cullivoe Fiddlers, Fancy Tunes, Lana Thomson and many more. The total taken in so far is around the £4,000 mark and committee members say they want to thank everyone who contributed and took part.

A spokesman said: “Thanks to all who made home-bakes, to all the local businesses and individuals who donated raffle prizes and all who gave money so generously. All in all it was a very successful fund-raiser for a very worthy cause.”

North Unst Public Hall

The hall committee in Haroldswick has been working steadily on the kitchen refurbishment project for a few years, with plans to upgrade the kitchen and improve the area at the back of the stage, providing new equipment, better storage and a new toilet/changing room.

So far they have formed a sub-group to focus on the project, sent out a questionnaire to the community to find out what improvements they think are needed. A feasibility study has been completed and the design phase is almost completed. Sources of funding are being pursued and fund raising events are being organised.

Things have moved slowly but from now on the project should pick up apace and it could be finished as soon as the summer of 2010. Easter teas in the hall raised £425 and, hopefully, a few Sunday teas will be held during the summer. In the meantime the committee members would like to thank everyone for their support.

Helicopter flight paths

Folk in south Yell, especially Burravoe, have expressed concerns over the noise and the fact that helicopters fly directly over communities.

Scatsta Airport manager Richard Enoch addressed a recent meeting of Yell Community Council to explain the situation and to reassure the people of south Yell on their concerns.

There are six helicopters based at Scatsta for the Shetland basin, flying in three rotations making a total of 18 flights a day. It was agreed that the new aircraft are noisier because they are bigger and Mr Enoch handed out maps to show the flight patterns and to explain how the flights paths are determined.

Outgoing the helicopters fly at 3,000 feet and incoming they are 2,000 feet and go in straight lines. However, in times of poor weather they fly visually at 1,000 or 500 feet over water.

Instrument approaches are the most problematic because the aircraft descend to 1,000 feet 10 miles from Scatsta and this takes them over the Ulsta area. There is no option on this as the rules set down by the Civil Aviation Authority state that this type of approach has to be practiced regularly and operators have to oblige.

There was much discussion on the level of noise and concerns raised by local residents when helicopters fly directly overhead. Mr Enoch apologised and said that he had been looking at alternatives since this matter first came to his attention. He said that he would look at the routes again and try to put as many as possible off to the south of Yell and confirmed that there had been no change to flight patterns to save fuel as had been suggested.

Mr Enoch requested that community council members and residents contact him at Scatsta at the times when helicopters, flying overhead, are causing real concerns so the he can see if there are certain times that can be avoided.

In conclusion Mr Enoch left the contract details and invited members to visit Scatsta to see the work of the base in operation.

Old Haa exhibition

Already the second of this season’s exhibitions is on display at the Old Haa in Burravoe. This one is the work of Westsandwick-based artist Rob Colclough and consists of Yell landscapes. He walks a lot and he is never without his sketchbook and of his paintings some are watercolours, some are oils and some are acrylics.

Mr Colclough started painting in 1995 when he was laid up after a climbing accident. His ankle was badly broken and had to be put back together with plates and screws. The medical advice was, very firmly, not to climb for at least a year. When he took up painting during his recovery period he enjoyed it so much that he has continued and he has given up climbing entirely.

Alongside the Colclough exhibition is the work of Rosemary Johnson shown in the cases. It is computerised embroiderers where various designs are sewn into clothing, tea towels and facecloths. Those exhibitions will be kept up the next four weeks.

Unst Music and Dance Club

Members of the Unst Music and Dance Club have been meeting for music nights on Thursdays throughout the winter.

This month they are having practice sessions to prepare for playing at this summer’s “Peerie Nights Oot” in the Uyeasound Hall and at the Wednesday evening events in the Baltasound Hall, organised jointly with the SWRI.

News from Fetlar

Fetlar Development Ltd has now received funding to employ a development worker and this post is being advertised. In the meantime the development group is moving forward with a number of exciting projects, nearly all of which have a strong renewable or environmental aspect.

The Fetlar Cafe, which was started last summer, is open again this year. The opening hours are from 10.45am until 14.45pm every day.

The Fetlar Interpretive Centre opened on 1st May and will be open until the end of September. The opening hours are 11am until 3pm from Monday to Friday and 1pm until 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Lawrence Tulloch


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