Shetland Times Column 27th March 2015

This week students from overseas visited Shetland. The Erasmus programme is a European Union funded initiative that takes students to all parts of Europe. Brae High School has hosted pupils from Latvia, Turkey, Sardinia and Norway.

 I met the pupils and teachers on Monday. Gordon Stove took photographs outside the school after Colin Kirkness had presided over an opening welcome to Brae and Shetland. It was a bracing morning with the odd sleety shower. Some pupils from warmer climates were less than impressed by the temperature. They needed to make a strategic investment in the Shetland wool industry. The Norwegian party is from Hammerfest. Their teacher observed that it was 6 degrees below freezing when they left home. So Brae felt like the Mediterranean. It did to the Norwegians but not to the Sardinians!

Brae High School have organised a packed week of events from a walk to Fethaland to a fire festival. This was due to take place last night. I find it a challenge to explain Up Helly A’ in Holyrood. But some of our new Turkish friends look positively bemused as the intricacies of carrying a torch and lobbing it into a wooden galley was explained. I am sure they will have it cracked by the end of the week.

Lauris Macdonald, a senior student at Brae plays the accordion with great skill and pace. She played for the opening welcome on Monday including a rendition of the Up Helly A’ song. Music was a feature of Monday night’s Saltire awards at Mareel. Misbehavin’ are a 4 strong group who played a variety of jazz and blues to a packed event. They are a strong and talented group and must be a contender in the Battle of the Bands evening tonight in Lerwick. This is a great initiative encouraging Shetland’s new generation of musicians to compete, play live and have a great night at an alcohol free gig. It is equally impressive that the promoters for the event are young people and have set up and run an organising committee to make the evening happen. There is plenty of good initiative among Shetland’s young.

The Saltire volunteering awards is a genuine celebration of so many young people who give their time for a vast array of worthwhile local projects. Malcolm Bell and I enjoyed an evening of trying to figure out who was whose son or daughter as a succession of able young Shetlanders came up onto the Mareel stage to receive a certificate showing their commitment to voluntary activity.

This frantic week had started on Sunday in Aberdeen. I watched a determined Shetland hockey ladies team lose a Scottish District Cup semi-final 2-1. They deserved more. Edinburgh University’s girls play every week and that showed as the game wore on. Hockey faces the same challenge as our senior footballers. They need more competitive games. That means travel, commitment and cost. The effort is worth it. Shetland hockey is stronger through the sterling efforts of this year’s team. A great week all in.

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