Councillors have agreed to increase the budget for this year’s Hamefarin by more than 50 per cent as preparations for the event, which is expected to attract up to 500 people back to the isles in June, continue to progress.
Members of the SIC’s development committee unanimously agreed to raise the spend to £111,990, well above the figure of £74,685 projected back in October 2008, not including time spent on the project by council staff.
Head of business development Douglas Irvine’s report to members said that the increase was mainly down to an underestimate of how much it would cost to stage a parade, drama events and promotional activities.
The event officially lasts from 14th to 26th June and hundreds of people from places as far afield as Canada, Australia and New Zealand are expected to flock to the Auld Rock. It will coincide with the annual Flavour of Shetland festival and the junior inter-county sports competition. Events will include bus tours, exhibitions, sports activities and a music tribute to the late Tom Anderson.
Mr Irvine said the promotion of the event had been given a major boost by a 10-minute slot on Australian television, with one of the antipodean nation’s favourite broadcasters Christopher Lawrence – who can trace his own family roots back to Walls – planning to be here in five months’ time.
A website, Shetlandhamefarin.com, and other promotional material have been produced and quarterly newsletters are being distributed to over 700 names on an electronic database. Based on a visitor survey, Hamefarers are expected to stay for a fortnight and spend a total of between £386,000 and £512,000.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the original Hamefarin, staged in 1960 following a population exodus during the 1950s and at a time, prior to the oil boom years, when Shetland’s future prospects looked poor. Links and legacies are still evident and were reinforced by a silver anniversary in 1985 and a more limited millennium event.
Mr Irvine said: “We are now entering the intensive period of work in the organising and more time will have to be spent on the event as the date approaches. It is extremely important that the Hamefarin 2010 lives up to its billing as a major event in Shetland’s history so that it acts as a catalyst for engaging with Shetland diaspora for generations to come and leaves the legacy that the 1960 event did.”
As a result of the Hamefarin – and next year’s Tall Ships – the Johnsmas Foy is being put on the backburner for a couple of years. Members agreed yesterday to carry out a review into the festival, which attracted an estimated 2,000 visitors over 10 unusually balmy days in June 2009.
Lerwick South councillor Jonathan Wills sounded a note of caution that he believes the isles are “festival-ed out” during the peak season and that more events should be planned for the “shoulder season” either side of the summer. Culture spokesman Rick Nickerson said the timing of the Johnsmas Foy was one of the things which the review would be able to examine, although of course any alteration to its place in the calendar would necessitate a name change.
Dr Wills was also concerned that the combined sum being spent on the food festival, Hamefarin and Tall Ships amounted to more than that being spent by economic development on childcare. He said that in future years it would be necessary to “revise our priorities” and “spend a little bit less on extremely enjoyable festivals”. Head of economic development Neil Grant said he accepted the point, but noted that a lot more was being spent on childcare out of other SIC budgets.
SIC convener Sandy Cluness said Dr Wills’ remarks were “reasonable”, but that he felt events like the Tall Ships were hugely important in promoting Shetland on a worldwide level to help stimulate the economy and “while they are expensive, we should continue to support them where we can”.