South Mainland Notebook

Dancing for a good cause

Back in December, Bigton dance teacher Matthew Lawrence’s pupils from Sandwick and Lerwick put on a show to raise money towards the cost of a defibrillator. The idea of raising funds to buy this lifesaving equipment had come to Matthew when he was doing a first aid course.

The show was filmed and a DVD of the performance, and about putting it together, is currently being produced, and will also be sold for the charity.

Matthew did the choreography, and live music was provided by young music students.

“I’m very in favour of live music to perform to,” says Matthew. “It adds an extra dimension and makes all the difference.”

This is something Matthew himself has experienced very much at first hand. Brought up in New Zealand, and trained in the New Zealand Royal Academy of Dance syllabus, which he believes to be the best in the world, Matthew got into ballet when, at the age of five, he was taken along to watch his older sister’s ballet lessons.

“I thought, ‘I could do better than that’,” says Matthew, and so his mother enrolled him too.

After that he went on to train at the New Zealand School of dance whose gruelling schedule, he says, toughened him up.

He wasn’t just into classical ballet, though, and he also attended a summer school, where he studied under one of the great teachers of American jazz dance, a forerunner of hip hop. “Dance is constantly reinventing itself,” Matthew says.

On coming to Britain, Matthew worked backstage at the West End, and did a seven-year stint as a flyman – the one who flies in the scenery – on the hit show Blood Brothers. He also did freelance work with other choreographers, helping them to create their pieces.

So how did Matthew come to live in Shetland? “For 12 years me and my wife had been promising ourselves to visit her aunt, who lives in Bigton. We booked our trip a year in advance, and during those two weeks Shetland worked its magic on us. Strangely enough, the town in New Zealand where I was brought up had strong links with Shetland, due to people who had emigrated there, and Wellington, where I also lived, does too, so maybe it was meant to be.”

Matthew and his wife moved to Bigton in 2005. Since then he has taught ballet classes in schools, and at other venues, throughout Mainland.

“As well as health and well being, the main thing that ballet gives children is confidence,” he says. “That comes especially when you work towards a public performance. It’s demanding, but those who stick with it are rewarded. It’s an outlet to live out their dreams.”

Ballet has always appealed to young girls, but lots of boys are now getting interested too. Matthew’s male pupils don’t think it’s in any way anomalous to be interested in ballet as well as football. “Billy Elliot had an amazing effect,” he says.

For more information about Matthew’s classes and his charity DVD, contact him at or call (01950) 422377.

Darts finals

The semi-finals and finals of the annual Mousa Shield darts tournament take place at Sandwick Social Club tomorrow. The competition begins at 8pm. Members and their guests are welcome to attend.

Tickets for South Mainland UHA

“There have already been numerous enquiries for tickets for the first South Mainland Up-Helly-A’,” says Sandwick Social Club chairman Neville Martin.

“I think it’s going to be a great thing. The area is more disjointed than it was in the past, so more contact between the different communities is good. The South Mainland Up-Helly-A’ will be a great catalyst to get people working together.

“I believe it will go well and set the standard for future years. Folk have certainly put a lot of effort into it, and it has got the makings of being one of the best. I predict that the night will be brilliant.”

Tickets for the halls participating go on sale tomorrow at a cost of £10 each or £8 concessions. To book, either visit the venues or phone George Hunter on (01595) 696589 to reserve tickets for Gulberwick Hall, or Mary Andreas on (01950) 422206 to reserve tickets for Bigton Hall. Tickets will also be on sale for Ness Boating Club, and for Sandwick Social Club during its bar hours. Sandwick Social Club is restricting ticket numbers to two per member; after a week any tickets they have left will be available to the general public.

Please note that all under-16s attending must be accompanied by a responsible adult. All halls will be issuing proof-of-age wristbands.

It’s show time

Channerwick resident Pearl Hunter started dancing at the age of two, when she was taken to dancing lessons by her mother because the doctor recommended them as a cure for flat feet.

They certainly worked, and Pearl continued dancing ballet, tap and ballroom into her fifties. Over the years she has taken part in a variety of shows, sung in choirs and put on ceilidhs. She has also participated in the Edinburgh Festival.

Now, for one night only, at 7.30pm on Saturday February 6th, she is putting on a show at the Garrison Theatre, entitled Pearl Hunter With Friends. It will comprise a selection of show songs and will have what Pearl describes as “a wee surprise” in the second half. She will be accompanied by James Halcrow on piano, Douglas Johnson on drums and Neil Morris on double bass. The aim is to raise money for the RNLI and for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Tickets cost £8 and are available from the Isleburgh box office.

Toddler group cancelled

Bigton toddler group’s session on Wednesday has been cancelled. The group will resume as normal on Monday 1st February.

Old Scatness open

Old Scatness, the Iron Age archaeological site which was later occupied by the Vikings, is one of South Mainland’s most popular visitor attractions throughout the summer months. It will also be open from 10am-4pm on Sunday to Friday of this coming week, with the exception of Tuesday, to coincide with the Lerwick Up-Helly-A’.

“We will have the usual guides, and Theresa New, who specialises in wood and slate carving, will be demonstrating ancient skills using local resources and materials,” says site co-ordinator Eleanor Pottinger. “Those based indoors will be dressed up in costumes, but whether the guides taking groups around outside will be too is going to depend on the weather.”

Visitors can also don Viking gear, and on Sunday they will be able to listen to storyteller Davy Cooper relating tales with a Viking theme.

“The Vikings are what we are concentrating on this particular week,” says Eleanor. “We feel that it is important to open during Up-Helly-A’. We get a lot of people from Shetland coming to see the site, but many local folk have people staying with them for Up-Helly-A’, and there isn’t a great deal open for them to go and look at on the other days. It may be their first time in Shetland, so it’s nice to have something to show them.

“Last year we had some school visits as well, and the weather was good enough for the pupils to spend time outdoors playing the Viking game Kubb. During the week we get pre-schoolers being brought along by parents and grandparents, so we will be laying on activities for them such as Viking banner painting and making wristbands. Older bairns often come to the site on the Wednesday holiday.”

Happily, the checks which are made on Old Scatness during its closed season suggest that the recent cold weather hasn’t caused it any problems. Other winter tasks done by staff include working on the Shetland heritage trails leaflets and, once the weather is milder, starting to prepare the garden for spring by gathering seaweed from the beach opposite, to put on the earth as a fertiliser.

“I imagine the folk who lived here in the past coped with the Shetland weather as best they could,” says Eleanor. “And if it was really bad they just stayed indoors, like we do.”

Change of plan for Mirrie Dancers

Many South Mainland folk will have now seen the illuminations at the Listening Station at Garths Ness, which are part of the Mirrie Dancers project put on by cross-media artists Roxane Permar and Nayan Kulkarni.

The Garths Ness illuminations were originally scheduled for early February, but the recent bad weather forced the artists to change their plans.

“Because of the ice and snow it was impossible to get up to the Watchtower on Ander Hill in Bressay, which was where we were supposed to be now,” explains Roxane. “So after a lot of time and energy spent figuring out what to do we decided the simplest thing was to re-arrange the schedule. The installation team started work at Garths Ness last Thursday, and Nayan and I were hard at it every day and into the night as well.

“It’s all been a bit topsy turvy, and I’m sorry to have had to make these changes, but I’m really pleased that we have been able to keep to the sites that were originally chosen for the illuminations by local people. And I will still be going to Dunrossness Primary School next week to show the children how to make light films.”

As things stand, it is planned that the Garths Ness illuminations will remain switched on until February 1st.

Toddler group correction

I have been given a correction to the times of the toddler group which takes place in the Bruce Memorial Hall on Tuesdays. It runs from 10-11.30am.

Donations wanted

The Bruce Memorial Youth and Community Centre would be grateful if folk could donate unwanted books, CDs, videos and DVDs for a sale to take place in February, to help raise money for some much needed repairs to the hall.

If you have any items you can donate, please contact either Scott Lobban on (01950) 460105 or Jim Beattie on (01950) 460966.

Famous far afield

An English birder has emailed me from India to say that, as well as being festooned with garlands of marigolds, the taxi belonging to his Indian guide is proudly sporting a Fair Isle Observatory sticker, given to him by another visiting birdwatcher!

Many thanks

Dunrossness Primary School would like to say a huge thank-you to Mainland’s Shop and Bigton Stores for all their help with the Books for Schools token appeal. Their support has allowed the school to receive lots of fantastic new books for the library.

The school also wishes to thank everyone who contributed tokens to their Flora, Tesco and Box Tops for Books appeals. They received over 14,000 Tesco tokens which were used to purchase, among other things, gardening equipment and binoculars.

This year Dunrossness Primary is once again taking part in the Flora Cooking with Schools appeal, which has so far allowed them to buy cooking equipment, such as aprons, saucepans and mixing bowls. It is hoped that this year’s participation will be the best yet. Everybody is asked to keep collecting tokens, and to send them to Emma Graydon at the school.

Cathy Feeny


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