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Now it’s official…Mareel’s open

Stuart Hubbard holds out the Mareel opening ribbon for PC Barry Derbyshire to cut at Saturday's all day opening ceremony. Pic. Shetland News

AROUND 2,000 people from kids to coppers snipped ribbons to declare Shetland’s brand new cinema and music venue open at the weekend.

Amongst the first through the door were nine year old Magnus Watt and his five year old brother Fraser. Pic. Craig Birnie

With more than 1,000 folk crossing the threshold of Mareel to watch movies – not least the new Twilight film – and almost 600 attending concerts, it was the £12 million state of the art venue’s busiest weekend yet.

A fascinating exhibition of original artwork by local artist Callum Moncrieff and session music in the café/bar added attracted even more folk for the occasion.

The three concerts by indie outfit Aberfeldy, Appalachian fiddle supremo Bruce Molsky (and Shetland friends) and Scottish icon Dougie Maclean saw the music venue packed out.

And showing off the technological capacity of the complex, Promote Shetland webcast the opening speeches and events to demonstrate how the building can reach out to the world live on the internet, helped by young music production students learning their craft.

In his speech Shetland Arts Trust chairman Jim Johnston pointed out that Mareel is “a truly world class facility”, with production and broadcasting capacity of the highest professional standard that make it “unparalleled” for an island community.

“We may be on the very edge of Europe but we have the best facility of its kind anywhere on the continent, uniquely combining a music venue, cinema and technical resources,” he said.

And while acknowledging the fraught local politics behind the funding of the venue, Johnston stressed the partnership work between agencies inside and outwith Shetland that brought it about.

Sonny Priest's first consignment of Mareel Ale. Pic. Craig Birnie

He also thanked all the people of Shetland who had played a role in bringing about the building, whether they supported it with “unwavering enthusiasm”, or through their criticism helped ensure it was a “robust product that will deliver for the widest possible range of people”.

To cap off the event, Sonny Priest of Valhalla Brewery turned up with his latest creation: a light and slightly fruity beer called Mareel Ale, on sale exclusively in the venue. Now its back to business with a busy cinema and the next major concert being Radio Scotland DJ Vic Galloway’s show with The Phantom Band, Honeyblood and local rockers The Last.