Chapel lit for Mirrie Dancers

The last of 10 temporary illuminations that have made up part of the Mirrie Dancers project is now showing at the gable end of the Auld Chapel at Longfield, Dunrossness.

As with the illuminations at Houss and Easthouse in Burra, this is a change from the original plan. Project co-ordinator Kathy Hubbard said that the artists had planned to install lights at Ander Hill, Bressay, the Bod of Nesbister and the croft houses at Snarravoe, but the weather conditions did not allow any of these to take place.

It did provide an opportunity to light up another excellent site, though, in that the Auld Chapel had been a favourite with a number of folk who had taken part in the site selection process in the late spring of last year.

Mrs Hubbard said: “We thought we had planned quite well for the ‘usual’ Shetland winter weather, but what we got was something unexpected, and it meant that we had to be flexible and rely on the good will of local people to help us do something different.

“We are very grateful to Kathleen Sinclair and her neigh­bours and to Magnus Burgess for helping us to realise the installation at Longfield.”

One of the aims of the project had been to literally shed light on places and objects that may not readily have been noticed before, and a number of people have told Mrs Hubbard that they had never really looked at the remains of the Auld Chapel before, or even realised that it was there.

The various installations have inspired Shetland’s artists and writers to respond in different ways. Local poet Donald S Murray wrote the following in response to the Auld Chapel illumination:

Faith once flourished in these walls / to which Wesleyans walked / every week to worship / hoping to bring healing to hands / bruised by sheaves they brought in / for the harvest, / the tatties that they hocked up / from the dark rigs of the Ness, / the sea, too, that could scour flesh, / grind hard rock into sand.
They looked for light
/ that might / illuminate their suffering / and bring battered palms together, / soothing broken souls and skin / with the gentle balm of prayer.

The illumination will run to the end of March, after which the lights will go away to be serviced before being installed into the new building at Mareel.

Meanwhile, work will continue on the next part of the pro­ject, the Lace Labs, with an exhibition planned for July this year.

Mirrie Dancers is funded by the Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Fund, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Leader.


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