The community’s long-awaited new cinema and music venue is to open on 24th May next year, Shetland Arts has announced.
After lengthy delays, construction firm DITT has confirmed that it will hand the building over on Monday 30th April 2012, with the £12.2 million venue to open just over three weeks later.
The hope had been for the venue to open in spring this year, but the project has been hamstrung by a variety of setbacks – including two of the subcontractors working on the building going out of business – since construction began in summer 2009.
Latterly the plan had been for Mareel to open in time for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s week-long visit to Shetland in early March.
The prestigious orchestra plans to visit rural areas too, and Shetland Arts said the only change to their visit was that a date pencilled in for Mareel will now go ahead at Clickimin instead.
Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons said the latest two-month delay was not down to any specific “hitches”, but because there was now “more clarity on the build programme and what needs to take place”.
He is relieved to finally have a concrete answer to a question – when is Mareel opening? – he is asked 30 or 40 times a week. Mr Gibbons said: “Shetland Arts is delighted to be making this announcement. The building is looking fantastic and although it has been a long haul for us all we are in no doubt that the quality of the venue and the experiences it will offer will in time complement Shetland’s other great cultural assets.”
He continued: “Our disappointment [about the further delay] is eclipsed by the fact that we’re all focused on Mareel opening on 24th May.”
Shetland Arts plans to issue more information on “exciting plans taking shape for activities and events in Mareel from spring next year”. An opening season of events will be announced early in the new year and, once the venue has bedded in, an official national opening will take place around the time of the Screenplay and Wordplay festivals next autumn.
“We’ve been continuously rethinking the opening plans as dates have slipped,” Mr Gibbons said. “There will be a range of local celebrations in the month around the opening, and then we’ll have a national opening in the autumn – a series of special celebration events around the film festival, ramping up the festivals and events that we do annually.”
Mr Gibbons has put together a short video-blog in celebration of the announcement and is planning to give the public a “sneak peek” at Mareel’s progress in another video-blog in the coming weeks.
• You can view the latest video-blog online here: www.shetlandarts.org/mareel-opening-date-announced