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Features / Arts, crafts and homebakes galore at FestiYell

A sand-sculpting competition at West Sandwick beach was one of a host of events held during the inaugural FestiYell. Photo: Charlie Inkster.

THE INAUGURAL FestiYell saw some of the best weather that Shetland can offer in September and many people have had a tremendous weekend enjoying the chance to see what Yell has to offer, writes Linsey Nisbet.

The event has been in the planning for six months, and much hard work and enthusiasm produced a well-organised sequence of events for everyone to enjoy. Very welcome is the use that has been made of each area of Yell, with events taking place in most of the island’s communities.

The event was launched in the Sellafirth Hall on Friday evening, where those present were given the background to this event, a bit of the history of Yell, the story behind the logo (“Yell, an island second to none”), and a brand new map of Yell was launched. Some pretty wonderful art works by the Yell Art Group adorned the walls at this event.

That night a very well-attended concert took place in Mid Yell, featuring some of the best of the island’s musical talent.  There were fancies galore, a lot of audience participation and the humour is remembered with pleasure long after the event.

Saturday offered a choice of events. A popular workshop was the photo-editing session with Charlie Inkster, who ran four sessions in order to fully share his talents.

Elsbeth Clark singing a comedy country song during the FestiYell concert. Photo: Charlie Inkster

There was a wonderful bairns’ creative printing workshop with Cilla Robertson and Elaine Thomason helping delighted youngsters enjoy a messy and happy time trying out many fun paint techniques, including some of their own ideas.

Andy Ross offered an exciting colour wrap and blending session which delighted the participants, and Cheryl Jamieson’s superb glass coaster-making sessions were very popular, with impressive results. One of the participants told me it had been “beautiful and relaxing.”

In deconstructing textiles with Shona Skinner, two hours flew past as a group, comprising budding artists aged from eight to 80, designed and created works of art using fabulous fabrics of many textures and colours.

There was Indian-inspired embroidery with Dot Rea, a chance to create something wonderful and exotic, and there was a dance workshop for various age groups with Kathryn Spence for those who felt energetic.

If that was not enough to inspire and titillate your senses, there was a craft fair in the Mid Yell Hall running throughout the day, with the opportunity to buy some beautifully crafted items. Fair Isle ganseys, knitted dolls, silver jewellery, wooden toys, jars of pickles and fruit loaves were all sorely tempting.

Saturday finished with a pizza night in the Burravoe Hall, where we could try out a feast of delicious food before heading to the Cullivoe Hall for a social evening by the bar.

Sunday morning began in the Global Yell studio in Sellafirth, where Andy Ross and Skinner provided bacon rolls and interesting information about textiles and their place in the art world. This session ended with Shona giving a fascinating demonstration of her machine textile work.

In almost perfect conditions, sand sculptures were crafted on West Sandwick beach, where young and old worked hard with shovels and buckets to create their masterpiece before the tide destroyed two hours’ work in minutes!

Tourism officers Kellie Naulls and Selina Miller were the driving force behind the event. Photo: Charlie Inkster

Jeanette Nowak offered an all day workshop on coiled basket and rope-making, a session which has proved so popular that she is offering another next Sunday. When I visited there were eight ladies from various parts of Shetland happily engrossed in producing bases for their baskets from semi-dried grasses.

During the day the Sellafirth Hall was open for teas and the opportunity to see more art and craft displays by local artists.

The last item for us all to enjoy on Sunday was the “pop-up” drama performance at the North Ness Hall. There was a selection of special performances of offer, along with yet more tea and these delicious homebakes or, if you preferred it, the bar.

Throughout the weekend there were on-going exhibitions too. There was a Ted Harrison and Frances Wilson art exhibition in the Burravoe Hall, The Old Haa Exhibition was open, and Cullivoe held an Up Helly Aa exhibition in the Galley Shed. Nowak had an open studio, as did the Shetland Gallery and the Shetland Tweed Company.  There was an art session in Isleshavn Care Centre with Amy Gear on Friday morning, and there was a church service in East Yell’s Methodist Chapel on Sunday.

Tourism officers Kelly Naulls and Selina Miller have worked very hard and enthusiastically to make this event happen, and their hope is that FestiYell will become an annual event, encouraging even more people to take part. The aspiration is for “a new and exciting showcase of talent in Yell” along with “an opportunity for folk to relax”.

This has been a truly wonderful weekend, and the organisers have to be congratulated on creating such a successful event, and offering another aspect of Yell for both tourists and locals to enjoy.

Linsey Nisbet