First music concert at Mareel may be on Saturday

Mareel’s first music concert could take place on Saturday night and its cinemas are set to begin operating seven days a week from late next week.

If all goes well on Friday the first-ever public event in the controversial £12 million complex could be the final Fiddle Frenzy festival concert on Saturday night featuring the Scottish fiddle supergroup Blazin’ Fiddles, supported by Linda Irvine from Whalsay and festival students.

The start of entertainments will mark the end of the long period of unfortunate delays and problems that have dogged the project, enabling its many critics to heap further scorn on the venture.

Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons said the agency was only waiting on final certification from builders DITT which would enable Mareel’s completion certificate to be issued.

In the meantime, a number of lucky people, including some who live next to Mareel, have already been treated to unofficial screenings in the two-screen cinema complex. Mr Gibbons said the reaction to the movie experience had been extremely positive. “They look fantastic. Everyone has walked out and gone ‘Wow!’

“Our plan, all being well, is for cinema screenings to start towards the end of next week. The cinema is all fully commissioned and ready to go.”

Details of the first films to be screened are still under wraps.

The next two months will see Mareel crank up activities from its so-called soft opening to full operation in October with an official opening in November.

Shetland Arts had hoped to hold more of this week’s Fiddle Frenzy festival in the new venue but instead the concerts had to be programmed for the Garrison Theatre. However, if the permissions come through in time the aim is to transfer tomorrow evening’s concert to Mareel. Mr Gibbons said: “Everybody is working like mad to make that happen.”

Perhaps only 24 hours’ notice of the switch will be given, mainly through announcing the change on social media, like Facebook and Twitter. However, the start of the gig will be delayed to allow time for gig-goers who still turn up at the Garrison to get down to the North Ness instead.

The new bar will be operational from the first evening concert and the full cafe-bar service should be running by the time the cinemas open next week.

The state of readiness will be a relief to promoters and those intending to attend the first wave of events booked into the venue. DJ Kutski is scheduled for Saturday 18th August with Americana singer Devon Sproule and her band due on Tuesday 21st August.

The Screenplay film festival and Wordplay book festival follow from 31st August to 9th September.

The controversy surrounding Mareel has included claims from some critics that allowing it to be licensed to sell alcohol would aggravate Shetland’s already extreme drinking culture. But

Mr Gibbons said this week he was confident Mareel would lead the way in “changing the thinking on drinking” in the islands and creating “a positive atmosphere” in the venue.

In recent months the staff members employed in the building have been trained in a new door policy as well as a course called ServeWise and the Challenge 25 scheme, which involves asking anyone who looks under 25 to prove their age.

Mr Gibbons said: “We want to ‘change the thinking on drinking’ in Mareel and emphasise the venue as somewhere to come to enjoy creative events first and foremost, not just to drink alcohol.”

For those who want to drink, the emphasis is to be on drinking for “enjoyment and pleasure, not to get intoxicated”, he said. Searches of people entering the venue will be carried out and drunk people will be refused entry.

Mr Gibbons added: “We want to create an atmosphere in Mareel that is welcoming and positive for all and we are confident the policies and procedures we have developed will help to ensure this. We have put together great bars and catering and front-of-house teams led by Amy Jenner and Autumn Robinson.”


Add Your Comment
  • ian tinkler

    • August 10th, 2012 9:03

    Will you Mareel people ever get your act together? You are becoming an utter embarrassment to Shetland. Soft opening? What does that mean; soft headed organisation would be closer to the mark.

  • Sandy McDonald

    • August 10th, 2012 10:39

    I do love the phrases that people create in the hope you won’t examine them. ” soft opening” is a good one. I remember the ispos mori surveyor trying to push a “non invasive home survey” on me a few years ago. I asked what this entailed and was surprised that “non invasive” meant climbing under the floor and in the attic and peering into every cupboard in the house. I pointed out this was hardly non invasive but he insisted it was. “but it’s a non invasive survey” he said.

    Soft Opening, hohoho!

  • Douglas Young

    • August 10th, 2012 10:52

    Blazing Saddles are playing at the Garrison according to, err….the Mareel.

  • James MacGregor

    • August 10th, 2012 14:27

    Why direct your bile at Mareel people, Mr Tinkler? Isn’t it DITT who are well over a year behind schedule and still not finished building it? Anyone would think they were on a go slow construction job. Let’s hope they can afford the prolongation costs.

  • Maggie Flockhart

    • August 13th, 2012 15:21

    Maybe the person who should be questioned about the delays is the architect whose vision appears to have changed many times over the years. If my understanding is correct she had a wide brief and could more or less make changes and do as she pleased with no one able/willing to challenge her decisions. DITT had no option but to go along with her ideas resulting in delay after delay. Surely they should not be penalised for a failure by whoever commisioned the architect to ensure the plans in place at the beginning of the build were adhered to.

  • ian tinkler

    • August 13th, 2012 15:22

    Mr. MacGregor if it was not for DITT taking on Mareel when all else had gone belly up there would have been no Mareel at all. Blame should be laid at the feet of the utter fools whom accepted and commissioned such a pretentiously overelaborate design. Not only has £12 million been put at risk but at this time all we have is a folly which appears to be an expensive office block wholly for the benefit of Shetland Arts. Has anyone got the balls to say just how much over budget Mareel is running at now and whom is paying all those employed in this white elephant who to date have been able to entertain only themselves?

  • Sandy McMillan

    • August 13th, 2012 17:38

    Ian Tinkler has a good point, Mareel is over a year behind schedule and proably a million or so over budget, yes they should get there act together, Mareel is staffed who is paying the wages bill, the overheads must be pretty high, at the moment there is over twenty employed by Mareel, they are currently recruting, this does not include theatre attendands, lighting crews, Mareel is going to cost a bomb to staff never mind the running cost, I wish them all the best for the opening venue if it ever comes.
    Sandy McMillan

  • James MacGregor

    • August 14th, 2012 23:48

    The decision to build Mareel was taken by Shetland Islands Council after 20 years of reports and debates about cinemas and music centres. I think that makes it a considered decision rather than a whim, Mr Tinkler.

    DITT did not “take on” Mareel as some sort of favour. They won a competitive tender and no doubt they will have to meet the penalties for delay in executing the fixed price contract.

    Dithering, mind-changing architects seems to be a fantasy dreamed up by the builders to justify their continued failure to construct the project to schedule. The design has changed only slightly. A project team of architects, engineers and surveyors worked closely with the client Shetland Arts to manage the project.

    Any large construction project is liable to meet problems along the way and Mareel seems to have encountered more than a fair share, but it is apparently almost here. We will all have the opportunity to benefit from the facilities it is providing and it will be a huge stimulus to creative industries in Shetland.

    Ill-informed conjecture is so easily exposed for what it is, so those who insist on creating it are wasting their efforts. Mareel will speak for itself and louder than any of them.

  • ian tinkler

    • August 15th, 2012 20:57

    Mareel, as expected by myself amongst many, has proved to be a nightmare of delay, dithering and exposed its inept management to be truly incompetent on so many levels. Time and again, in the full knowledge of its endless construction problems events have been scheduled only to be cancelled or relocated. What kind of fools can endlessly and remorselessly advertise and promise events only to fail to deliver again and again and again? What kind of idiots employs staff to man an empty building, whom is paying their wages? And with who’s money? If this was a commercial undertaking it would have failed long ago, whoever was responsible for this farce would long ago been dismissed. Now will someone answer my question “Has anyone got the balls to say just how much over budget Mareel is, and whom is paying all those employed in this white elephant, whom to date have been able to entertain and serve only themselves?” As I previously stated this Mareel undertaking has become no more than a folly and an embarrassment to Shetland.


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