Follow the arts trail
Knitwear, arts and crafts
Photo: Katie Leask/Neilanell
The islands’ natural environment, with its ever-changing light and sense of space, provides inspiration for a huge range of work from craft makers, artists and photographers. A diverse range of quality items for both the local and tourist markets is created – knitwear and textiles, jewellery, glasswork, furniture, pottery, metalwork, woodwork and much, much 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.
Shetland Arts & Crafts Association (www.shetlandartsandcrafts.co.uk) has a ‘craft trail’ of makers who welcome visitors to their studios and workshops. Pick up a leaflet and follow the trail 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.
Photo: Cheryl Jamieson/Glansin Glass 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 use the end product, visitors can sample most aspects of production and purchase quality items at 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.
Photo: Shetland Handspun/Elizabeth Johnson Shetland Wool Week, held in the autumn, has been a very popular addition to the annual calendar. As well as celebrating our native sheep, textile industries and farming communities, there are master classes and demonstrations with well-known local and international knitters and designers, and a huge range of workshops that attract hundreds of enthusiasts each year. More details can found at www.shetlandwoolweek.com.
The Shetland Textile Museum (www.shetlandtextilemuseum.com), at the Böd of Gremista in Lerwick, is an informative and entertaining venue 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. Photo: Maurice Henderson
In art galleries, shops, cafes and public buildings you’ll find a variety of local and touring art exhibitions, both for browsing and buying. Dedicated spaces such as at Bonhoga Gallery in Weisdale Mill and Da Gadderie in Shetland Museum, and privately-owned galleries in Yell and Lerwick all show a range of high-quality exhibits. Occasional workshops, demonstrations and courses for all ages are also arranged, so keep a lookout for events taking place while you’re here (see www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/entertainment).
See, hear and read
Main events in Shetland’s vibrant musical calendar are all worth a trip to hear or participate in music from the islands and around the world. To find more information on Shetland’s biggest annual festivals visit:
The purpose-built arts venue and cinema, Mareel, sited on Lerwick’s waterfront next to Shetland Museum and Archives, is a great space for musical events, while pubs, social clubs and village halls throughout the islands host various gigs, sessions and social events.
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 collected many of the traditional Shetland tunes to preserve them for future generations. The ‘forty fiddlers’ still 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.
Shetland has produced hundreds of excellent fiddle players. Some, such as Aly Bain, our most well-known fiddling export, have furthered their musical careers in the wider world, but many have stayed home and keep the tradition alive by playing at sessions, festivals and concerts, as well as tutoring, both in schools and privately. High Level Music in Lerwick provides teaching space for many instruments, giving pupils of all ages the opportunity to become involved in the thriving music scene. The annual young fiddler of the year competition showcases upcoming traditional talent while the larger music festivals and the schools music festival also allow opportunities for young musicians in all genres to perform. New tunes are always appearing as well and a growing group of local composers keep musicians happy with a continuous supply of new material.
Photo: Davy Gardner. Alongside the traditional is a vast range of musical styles that can be enjoyed by visitors – folk, blues, singer-songwriter, 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, a community orchestra and even a mandolin band. All enjoy their own kind of music and encourage anyone with an interest to come and take part or just listen.
Pick up a copy of The Shetland Times on Fridays and keep an eye on www.shetlandtimes.co.uk for music and arts news, previews and reviews.
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 events and concerts for many years. See www.shetlandarts.org for full programming and ticket 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 the quarterly magazine The New Shetlander continues to be enjoyed by a loyal following. 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.