26th March 2019
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Ponies, music and dancing as Lerwick hosts Fair Isle festival

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Crowds were out in force for the launch of Shetland’s first Fair Isle Festival on Sunday, complete with Fair Isle-clad Shetland ponies, music and dancing.

The week-long festival is in full swing, with bunting and live music in the town centre creating a celebratory atmosphere. Lerwick’s first street market has stalls in Harrison Square, and the organisers would welcome more stallholders to join them during the week.

The festival has fun for all the family, and many enjoyed Sunday’s first event, a Fair Isle Family Cycling Parade. This started in the King Harald Street play park, ending at Victoria Pier – the only requirement of the hour-long event was wearing an item of Fair Isle. This ended in time for the crowds to see the ponies walk the length of Commercial Street and see the Papa Stour sword dancers and Da Shanty Yellmen at the Market Cross. And to complement the market stalls, open daily from 11am to 5pm, shops will be open late – with many special offers.

The street had two unusual visitors on Sunday as a pair of Shetland ponies were paraded through town as part of the Fair Isle Festival. Photo: John Coutts

The street had two unusual visitors on Sunday as a pair of Shetland ponies were paraded through town as part of the Fair Isle Festival. Photo: John Coutts

The festival is organised by Living Lerwick, which is owned, run and funded by the businesses in the town centre. It was set up thanks to the area becoming a Business Improvement District, and focuses on bringing new life to this historic area.

Christena Irvine of CU Marketing, contracted by Living Lerwick to manage the BID, said the festival had got off to a good start on Sunday. She said: “I’m pleased and relieved. Quite a few took part in the cycle race, and the ponies in Fair Isle gansies went down a treat. The [street] traders did well and so did the shops.”

The stalls in Harrison Square are aiming to bring something new to the public with items not generally available in the shops: “an ever-changing selection of products from existing and start-up local businesses.” Christena said more stallholders would be welcome, including those selling locally-produced food. She said: “We’re still looking for more [stallholders] for the week, it would be nice to get new stuff that’s a peerie different and we’re looking for new ideas, we would like more selling Shetland food.”

Novelty ideas were doing well, she said, such as the Peerie Critters craft stall run by Freya Gronneberg and selling critters “like teddies but different”, and a stall specially created for the festival by Andrew Irvine. This stall, Fair Isle Records, sells second-hand vinyl records and CDs. Of the money taken, 70 per cent goes to the owner of the record or CD and 10 per cent to Mind Your Head. “A load of collectable stuff has come in and his stall his done exceptionally well,” according to Christena.

The Papa Stour dancers performing in front of the Market Cross. Photo: John Coutts

The Papa Stour dancers performing in front of the Market Cross. Photo: John Coutts

Another successful stall is run by Ingrid Moar from Ingrid’s Garden Plants at Fort Road. One market stall is used as a Living Lerwick information point throughout the event. RSPB will also have a stall where they will co-ordinate children’s activities such as their Find the Furry Animal competition.

The activity in Harrison Square has spilled over into neighbouring businesses. Coffee and Keetchin, formerly Karibuni, has had a lot of business and is offering 10 per cent discount to stall holders. Christena said: “It’s about all Lerwick town centre businesses working together.”


About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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