Supporters of Mareel gathered to witness the launch of the building phase of the £12 million cinema and music venue project at North Ness on Wednesday evening.
Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons, who again expressed his relief that the project had come this far, thanked those present for their support in helping to get things off the ground before welcoming council convener Sandy Cluness to the site. Mr Cluness described Mareel as “one of the most exciting projects we’ve seen in Shetland for a very long time”.
A series of attempts by his fellow councillors to get the project halted last year culminated in Mr Cluness delivering the casting vote in favour of Mareel after a 9-9 tie.
In what he is likely to look back on as one of the high points of his time as the SIC’s political leader, Mr Cluness told supporters then that they could “go ahead and build Mareel”.
He recalled this week that it “hasn’t always been an easy ride”, before adding: “Today, I think we can send the opponents away with a flea in the ear.” In an amusingly kitsch moment, he then donned a hard hat and clambered into a digger, to the strains of Europe’s impossibly cheesy 1980s hit The Final Countdown, to dig the first of the foundations.
Local construction firm DITT was awarded the building contract earlier this year and it is hoped the building will be ready to open in late 2010 or early 2011, but an exact opening date will only become clearer around six months into the construction phase.