Follow the arts trail and discover…
...knitwear, arts and crafts
Knitters, craft makers, artists and photographers throughout Shetland produce a diverse range of quality items for both the local and tourist markets.
Creative glasswork made in Unst.
The islands’ natural environment, with its ever-changing light and sense of space, provides inspiration for a huge range of work – knitwear and textiles, jewellery, glasswork, leatherwork, furniture, pottery and more – which is available direct from the makers or from local shops, websites, craft fairs (including a major event in November each year), markets and gallery outlets. And you can even decorate your own pottery items or stuff your own teddy bear at the award-winning Aa Fired Up ‘shop’ in Lerwick.
Follow the 'Craft Trail' for some inspirational arts and crafts. Shetland Arts & Crafts Association has created a ‘craft trail’ of makers who welcome visitors to their studios and workshops. Pick up a leaflet and follow the trail of distinctive signs as you travel around the islands. Though it is called a trail, there is no set path to follow; wherever your travels take you, the craft trail will lead to many surprises, but only two certainties – quality crafts and a warm welcome.
Knitwear created using Shetland wool is famous worldwide, from fine lace shawls that can be pulled through a wedding ring to intricate Fair Isle patterned garments. From the moment the fleece comes off the sheep to the time you can wear or use the finished product, visitors can sample most aspects of production and purchase quality items at various studios and shops island-wide. The spinning mill in Sandness undertakes the whole process from fleece to finished item, while the village of Hoswick is a hub for both traditional garments and unique, more contemporary work, using various yarns, blends and textiles.
Some fine examples of Fair Isle knitwear. Shetland Wool Week, held annually in the autumn, has been a very popular addition to the event calendar. As well as celebrating Britain’s most northerly native sheep, Shetland’s textile industries and rural farming communities, there are master classes and demonstrations with well-known local and international knitters and designers, and workshops that attract a growing number of enthusiasts each year. More details can found at www.shetlandwoolweek.com.
The Shetland Textile Working Museum (www.shetlandtextilemuseum.com), at the Böd of Gremista in Lerwick, is an informative and entertaining resource showing Shetland’s wealth of textile history and culture. Alongside the exhibits and displays of garments and accessories, demonstrations of knitting, spinning and weaving are also arranged.
Mirrie dancers over Weisdale Mill. Art galleries, shops and public buildings host a variety of local and touring art exhibitions, both for browsing and buying. There are dedicated spaces such as at Bonhoga Gallery in Weisdale Mill and Da Gadderie in Shetland Museum, while privately-owned galleries in Yell and Lerwick also show a range of high-quality exhibits. Occasional workshops, demonstrations and courses on a range of skills, and for all ages, are also arranged, so keep a lookout for events taking place while you’re here (see www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/whats-on).
Visit The Shetland Times Bookshop for a huge range of knitting and craft books.
...a musical 'community'
Hjaltibonhoga regularly perform at the Edinburgh Tattoo. Shetland’s vibrant musical scene shows no signs of abating and an ever-growing number of isles’ musicians in all genres are nurtured and encouraged through some excellent tutoring and a variety of educational and performance opportunities.
The late Tom Anderson is largely responsible for the continuation of the isles’ rich and renowned fiddling heritage. He formed the Shetland Fiddlers Society in 1960 to play at a ‘hamefarin’ of exiles from around the world, and gathered many of the traditional Shetland tunes together to preserve them for future generations. The ‘forty fiddlers’ are still going strong and meet in Lerwick, usually on Wednesday evenings in Islesburgh Community Centre. Visiting players are welcome to join their sessions. Hjaltibonhoga are a more recent addition to this fiddle culture with Margaret Robertson’s ‘team’ now a regular fixture at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo each summer.
Bryan Gear is one of Shetland's most talented fiddlers. Shetland boasts, literally, hundreds of excellent fiddle players. Some – Aly Bain, Chris Stout, Kevin Henderson, Catriona Macdonald, Jenna Reid and Maggie Adamson to name a few – have furthered their musical careers on the British mainland and in the wider world, but many have stayed at home and keep the tradition alive by playing at sessions, festivals and concerts, as well as tutoring, both in schools and privately. New tunes are always appearing as well and composers such as Steven Spence keep musicians happy with a continuous supply of new material.
The High Level Music Centre in Lerwick includes teaching space for not only fiddle, but guitar, accordion, mandolin, ukulele, piano and voice instruction, giving hundreds of pupils of all ages the opportunity to become involved in the thriving music scene.
A collaboration of local musicians support popular songstress Freda Leask. Alongside the traditional is a vast range of musical styles that can be enjoyed by visitors – folk, blues, country, Scottish dance, jazz and various versions of pop and rock can all be heard; there’s a choral society, brass band, pipe band, choirs, drum groups, classical music groups, a community orchestra and a mandolin band. All enjoy their own kind of music and encourage anyone with an interest to come and take part or just listen.
‘Organised’ events are all worth a trip to hear or participate in music from the islands and around the world. Click the links for more information on
The purpose-built arts venue and cinema, Mareel, sited on Lerwick’s waterfront next to Shetland Museum and Archives, is a great venue in which to enjoy the various musical events, while pubs, social clubs and village halls host both formal and informal gigs.
Also keep an eye on www.shetlandtimes.co.uk for music and arts news, previews and reviews.
Visit The Shetland Times Bookshop for a huge selection of local music books.
...film, theatre and books
Mareel, Shetland’s cinema and arts venue Mareel is also the location for film events and education, and provides an ideal setting for the annual ‘Screenplay’ festival. Mareel is managed by Shetland Arts and runs in tandem with the Garrison Theatre, which has been the stage for drama and concerts for many years. See www.shetlandarts.org for full programming details.
The islands’ literary arts scene is very much alive too, with book launches, library events and readings, writers’ groups, and a ‘Wordplay’ book festival all on offer.
Regular additions are made to the ‘local interest’ book list of local printer and publisher, The Shetland Times Ltd, while monthly and quarterly magazines (Shetland Life and The New Shetlander) continue to be enjoyed by a loyal following. Digital editions of both The Shetland Times and Shetland Life are also available.
Various independent publishers produce a range of Shetland works for all interests and all ages; visitor memberships for the Shetland Library on the Hillhead in Lerwick are available and most Shetland books are stocked there.
Tickets for many events can be bought through the Shetland Arts Box Office (www.shetlandarts.org). Pick up a copy of The Shetland Times on Fridays to see what’s happening in pubs, clubs and village halls throughout the isles, or see the What’s On section at www.shetlandtimes.co.uk.