THE DAYTIME drizzle of this year’s Up Helly Aa day gave way to a crisp, dry and just ever so slightly breezy night, writes Genevieve White.
Hundreds of torches illuminated the elegant tan and green costumes of the Jarl squad, while also shedding light on the usual mix of weird and wonderful guizer costumes: from cowboys and big birds to nuns and super heroes.
The lighting up drew murmurs of admiration from the crowd. Ian Whyte, visiting Up Helly Aa from the Black Isle, was deeply impressed by the procession’s initial moments, describing the spectacle as “fabulous” and “amazing”.
Guizer Jarl Olav Haraldsson – aka Neil Robertson – cut a spectacular figure standing at the helm of his galley boat: the black wings of his helmet silhouetted against a blazing backdrop. He was cheered by crowds of enthusiastic onlookers, many of whom commented on the fine weather.
Edna Williamson, originally from the Philippines, had come along to support her son in one of the squads. She admitted that the clement evening made for an enjoyable festival experience: “It’s so much more comfortable to be out than it was last year.”
The procession culminated, as usual, in the King Harald Street playing park, where the galley boat blazed beautifully. The boat burning was complemented by a stunning firework display.
As the Jarl Squad headed out towards their evening’s duties, their mood seemed jubilant. Jarl squad member Alan Rorie said it had been a “lovely night”, the highlight of which had been the final burning.
Fellow Jarl squad member Stephen Leask was also of the opinion that it had been a “braaly guid night”, but was unwilling to name a personal highlight at this early stage in the proceedings. “It’s not over yet,” he pointed out. “I’ve still got all the halls to go to.”
With the burning over, the crowds began to disperse. While some headed for home, others were just beginning the evening’s festivities.
On King Harald Street, the “famous squad 43” were bundling themselves into a Shetland Transport van. This squad (who were the Jarl squad of 2011) were excited about performing their Lego movie disco dance around the halls, although sadly did not have time to provide a sneak preview of their choreography. Squad member Conor Mainland described the squad’s act as “energetic” with “lots of dance moves”. “Hopefully it will go down well”, he said.
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