Committee issues warning to Up-Helly-A’ squads

The Lerwick Up-Helly-A' committee has issued a warning to squads.
The Lerwick Up-Helly-A’ committee has issued a warning to squads. Photo: Dave Donaldson

The Lerwick Up-Helly-A’ committee has issued warnings to squads for this year’s fire festival in regard to the media.

Known for its carnival atmosphere the instructions from the Up-Helly-A’ committee may be seen by some as putting a bit of a dampener on the long night’s partying.

In the document squads are advised that, in relation to the increasing media interest in the festival, “there are a few who would like to present bad images”. Squads are instructed not to allow media into/onto their trucks and buses.

The committee is also attempting to control the posting of videos on sites like YouTube. It cites unsuitable material like “partying in the back of trucks, drinking on the Hillhead etc.” and goes on: “We do not want squads videoing the procession, burning site, squad huts and back of trucks/buses.”

Speaking apparently for all guizers, the commmitte thinks the experience should remain that of guizers and not of the world wide web users. The document states: “We as guizers are privileged to experience Up-Helly-A’ to the full, the experience should remain that of the guizers and not for anyone watching YouTube.”

The committee says it has received a couple of complaints from halls regarding damage from props and squads using smoke machines. It warns that if squads do not abide by the rules of the hall and/or “continue to damage halls then they will close, nobody wants this to happen”.

All this could be seen as a continuing effort of the committee to control the antics of squads and their natural exuberance during the festival. Considering the size of the festival and element of fire there is, surprisingly, very little trouble of any kind.

The festival was originally established to curtail an element of lawlessness on the streets of Lerwick during the long, dark winter. The Viking theme is a relatively recent addition.

It remains to be seen if the everyday guizer takes heed of the committee’s firm instructions; there is the general feeling that things will carry on as usual.


Add Your Comment
  • Spence Jamieson

    • January 17th, 2014 20:50

    From one who experiences the festival from the other side of the earth, controlling ‘natural exuberance’ seems to be an unfortunate cringe that will turn the event into safe, tidy and predictable theatre. Part of the joy of the spectacle is the sense of sharing in the rogue activities: keeping the ‘fire’ alive. Maybe rehearsals will be next on the list to ensure that the event is up to the required standard, complete with special ‘star’ performances?

  • Kay Wiseman

    • January 17th, 2014 23:18

    there is times in my life words fail me up-helly-ahh is up -helly -ahh man up .or (to quote a famous man) ship out.

  • David Toney

    • January 17th, 2014 23:34

    Sounds very draconian !

  • john ridland

    • January 18th, 2014 9:54

    What a load o PC crap, dont let the gutter press ruin Up Hella Aa the same way they run/ruin EVERYTHING else…

  • Brandon Cole

    • January 18th, 2014 10:54

    Not only is that an incredibly elitist thing to say; condemning those not fortunate enough to experience Up Hell Aa without seeing it first-hand (tickets for halls alone are incredibly hard to come by unless you are “well-known” in the community) but it seems completely untrue. Sounds to me like the committee simply don’t want the videos of their illegal activities (of which the police turn a blind eye to) posted all over the internet.

  • Jenny Henry

    • January 18th, 2014 14:02

    Look oot for da red arm bands on da sleeves o dir black overcoats dis year!

  • John Robertson

    • January 18th, 2014 15:12

    What a load of old tosh.

    I have enjoyed watching the youtube videos and able to see the parades etc.

    I wonder if Visit Shetland supports these ideals. I think not. I would think that the festival provides some hard earned tourist ‘pounds’ into the economy.

    I am looking forward to viewing this year’s youtube offerings.

    John Robertson

  • ian tinkler

    • January 18th, 2014 17:44

    No more pillaging and the other thing!! Thor would be turning in his grave. Capon Vikings now just behave yourselves in public; you are official neutered for the press. O dear me, many a virgin will shed a tear.

  • Rachel Buchan

    • January 19th, 2014 5:02

    What a load of PC rubbish!! I hope it carries on just the way it always has!

  • Graeme Storey

    • January 19th, 2014 12:14

    Guizer Jarl Canute, anyone?
    Given the readily available technology on modern smartphones (for instance), I would suggest that trying to prevent anyone from videoing the proceedings and posting them on YouTube is like the Guizer Jarl standing on the foreshore and asking the tide to stop coming in…..

  • stella smith

    • January 19th, 2014 13:36

    I think the same as above, it’s all a fun night out, if videoing is fun & not rude, I can see nothing wrong with it, think somebody as come with an April 1st early.

  • Linda Brown

    • January 19th, 2014 23:29

    I live at the other side of the world and spend the last Tuesday of January checking in on the proceedings online, it is the closest I can get to that very important part of what makes Shetland unique. Nowhere else in the world do you see the spectacle that is Up Helly Aa. I am sure that the number of hits on youtube that #drunkguizer will get is minimal compared to the 1000s that watch the procession and burning online with a tear in their eye goosebumps rising as the bugle sounds. I understand there may be some fear for the few men who live by the ‘what happens on the bus stays on the bus’ motto. Most who attend Up Helly Aa partake in the festivities in a law abiding morally sound manner even if it is with a fair lashing of inuendo. The back of the bus is no worse than any lane on a weekend, if you are going to act up in public you can expect to be seen. My advice to guizers is carry on doing things the way you always have and leave your phone at home, chances are you won’t have a suitable pocket in your costume anyway and you will lose the smart phone somewhere between the Gibby and the Central when you miss the bus having a second bowl of soup and a couple of extra “fancies”. Finally may I be the first to say “Three cheers for the Guizer Jarl, hip hip hurray!

  • Linda Tait

    • January 20th, 2014 0:24

    I enjoy UHA because the normal PC nanny state nonsense has not, until now infiltrated what is a traditional local event. Why do the committee feel the need to curb good old fashioned fun? Have the committee no seen the enormity of nonsense that populates Youtube? Live and let live I say. The issue here lies with the perception of those not involved who want to be involved. Keep it local for locals, that’s why it’s unique.

  • David Spence

    • January 20th, 2014 3:06

    Good One Stella lol As an avid amateur photographer myself, I find it quite ludicrous for the Up Helly Aa Committee to exert a rule, lets be frank here, they would almost find impossible to police or monitor. Up Helly Aa is a world renowned festival, and people from all over the world come too see it, photograph it and video it as a memorable fantastic occasion they can show their relatives and friends, who, as a result of seeing it, may in turn come to Shetland themselves to see Europe’s biggest fire festival, as well as many other attractions these islands offer.

    As Graeme has pointed out, most mobile phones have a built in camera, which in itself would be very difficult to have any monitoring or surveillance upon it or the people carrying such devices. As for people with proper camera’s, again this would, probably in the hundreds, be difficult to exert any for of censorship.

    Up Helly Aa, is a public event, and it is only right that the public have the right to record this by either a still camera or a camcorder without any restrictions (within reason) bestowed upon them.

    However, I do agree with the Up Helly Aa Committee on making public via facebook, youtube or other social network websites should be prohibited on events that are not directly linked to the fire festival itself (events which are out with the day time parade, Market Cross gathering, the Galley at the pier, the Night Parade, the burning of the Galley, fireworks display and the acts within the halls by the squads)

  • Ed Freshwater

    • January 20th, 2014 13:12

    For my whole childhood, I was lucky enough to have one of the best views in town of the light up, and in my late teens and early twenties enjoyed being part of the festival enormously.

    Now I’m living in the soggy Midlands of England and I’m evangelical about Up Helly Aa to anyone that will listen – every time I’ll show them some clips on YouTube and every time I get the response “F*** that looks like fun!” I don’t get to join in the festival anymore, but it’s great that someone posts footage of my Dad’s squad so I can finally find out what the big secret was.

    I hope the webcast will get plenty views, but the footage of squads shot by Shetlanders posted freely and shared with the world is a welcome advertisement for this unique event. There’s no need to be isolationist and insular when social media allows Shetland to shout loud it’s individuality and skill at throwing the finest party in Europe.

    It’s not the same as being there, but for those who can’t it’s the next best thing.

  • john n oakes

    • January 20th, 2014 16:48

    All the best for the Up Helly Aa just keep the noise down we in England need some sleep ha ha ha ha. No seriously I will do my best to raise a glass and say Wassail from merry England.

  • David Spence

    • January 20th, 2014 18:43

    I’m intrigued, although probably unlikely, if the last commentator on this thread is the famous John Noakes of the equally famous Blue Peter? I believe Blue Peter were up on the islands in 1973, and correct me if I am wrong John (if you read this and you are the notable Mr John Noakes of 1960-70’s Blue Peter) but didn’t you ask if you could be the Guizer Jarl for the 1973 Up Helly Aa ? lol

  • Stewart Mac

    • January 21st, 2014 11:51

    I think you will find if you look again that the previous post was from John n Oakes

  • David Spence

    • January 21st, 2014 14:27

    lol thank you Stewart…….and that was me reading it with glasses on lol cheers lol

  • john n oakes

    • January 22nd, 2014 11:12

    No I am not John Noakes but I will treat as a compliment still, because as a youngster he’s a model of a good person I looked up to then. I on the other hand have been on the Shetlands during my RAF career at Saxa Vord for my sins. The hardest part was the language or dialect, even though I had been posted to Scotland for three years before Unst. From the tired weary and ill from the 12 hour ferry journey from Aberdeen. I must have looked a complete mess and incoherent to the petrol station attendant I called before the drive north to Unst. To me I enjoyed every moment of my time and still, to this keep involve whether through being provided internet service with Zetnet or Shetland Broadband to this Shetland Times site. Thanks for the compliment and Wassail from Merry England.

  • David Spence

    • January 22nd, 2014 15:50

    lol You are very welcome John (of the not Noakes of the famous Blue Peter).

    Yes, Up Helly Aa is certainly a spectacle in many ways…….from both sides of the fence lol


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