Shetland was bathed in sunshine yesterday as thousands descended on Clickimin to support the fourth fund-raising spectacular for Cancer Research UK that is Relay for Life.
People came from every corner of the isles to walk or volunteer, whether to sell food or raffle tickets, while others had come earlier to enjoy the gala afternoon preceding the main event, swelling the numbers involved to around a 10th of the isles population. By Monday the total raised was approaching £200,000.
“Shetland you’re phenomenal,” said fund-raising organiser Louise Robertson, prior to the start of the relay itself, addressing a sea of mainly blue T-shirts of the 135 teams comprising more than 2,100 individuals, sponsored to spend the next 12 hours, still in balmy weather, on the running track.
Beside them, already on the track, were the 140 cancer survivors in their distinctive pink T-shirts, waiting to walk the lap of honour to start the relay. All T-shirts had the message “Together we’ll beat cancer”, and the crowd was exhorted to shout this as the event got underway.
The ribbon was cut by two young survivors and, flanked by the Jarl’s Squad in full regalia, the survivors were off to the sound of We are the Champions and cheers from the crowd.
Then came the army of blue T-shirted walkers, with balloons and banners and many variations in dress: net tutus, pink hats or wigs, tartan skirts, toy monkeys made from socks perched on shoulders or grass skirts.
The army and onlookers had to be fed and huge queues soon formed at the food marquees. The Whalsay fishermen did sterling work providing scallop and mackerel and the Skerries women in another area served teas, sandwiches and fancies. Trays of donated goodies were endlessly handed through flaps in the marquees and the blue buckets on the end of the counters quickly filled with five and ten pound notes.
Music kept the event going too, with local bands playing first outdoors and later in the music marquee, and there was exercise all night with dance mats, zumba and pilates.
The crowd was treated to a performance from Inferno Street Dance, the young winners of Shetland’s Got Talent, and songs from Veev set the tone for the solemn Candle of Hope ceremony. This was the time when the candles in the decorated bags devoted to loved ones were lit around the track and the words HOPE and CURE were illuminated on Staney Hill, a moving sight as the night was darkening and the moon rising.
The sense of community was palpable, and had been since the afternoon. People had come early, the row of parked caravans along Lochside testament to their intention to stay for the long haul, grabbing catnaps as needed. But in the afternoon they had basked in the unaccustomed windless conditions, donating for the cause by paying for face painting, balloon animals or a tombola prize.
Louise Robertson had told the crowd that CRUK receives no government funding. The enthusiasm of the supporters, who at the last relay raised a record £225,000, seems likely to break even this record and make sure funding is in place for further research.