AFTER four thrilling music filled days, Shetland’s 38th annual folk festival has now drawn to an official close, Iona Nicol writes.
With artists from all walks of life – whether they were local to Shetland or from as far away as the United States – a huge variety of unique sounds were enjoyed in venues across the isles.
Music ranged from Canada’s William Prince bringing his mesmerising baritone vocals and emotionally powerful and moving performances to New York’s twin duet The Brother Brothers offering temperamentally dark Appalachian folk and Bluegrass harmonies, and local band Vair with their infatuating strong Irish and Americana influences.
There was undeniably something for everyone, whether listeners were hardcore folk fanatics or casual listeners. And once again, Shetland’s Folk Festival has been massively successful in drawing huge numbers, with the majority of events being sold out.
Festival committee member Louise Johnson said that “overall” numbers had increased.
“Visitor numbers are up from last year. Everything is up, from memberships to ticket sales. We are also financially ahead of last year,” she said.
“This year we have had the best sponsors yet – it’s excellent, the festival is truly buzzing.
“It is really important to emphasise that we couldn’t have done any of this without the community. Almost every aspect of the festival is run on a voluntary basis, and without people volunteering for the likes of selling event and raffle tickets, working the bar, stewarding, and hosting artists from around the globe, none of this would have been possible.”
Every year, Shetland Folk Festival plays a crucial part in bringing the Shetland community together. The sense of comradery and the celebration of folk music regularly succeeds in drawing people back year after year.
Michael Leask, a regular festival goer, encouraged volunteering: “This year marks my fifth year of volunteering at the folk festival. Every year I volunteer to drive a minibus, transporting musicians from one venue to the next.
“I really enjoy it. It is a perfect opportunity to meet people, musicians and attend a variety of gigs.
“I will definitely be back next year, I wouldn’t miss it,” Michael added.
As well as locals volunteering, of course, many also take part as musicians. Peter Hurst, a member of the Northmavine Fiddle and Accordion Club, expressed his gratitude towards being invited to take part.
“Last year, for whatever reason, the club wasn’t invited to take part in the festival. We went as spectators, but it really just didn’t feel the same.
“It’s mind-boggling really, the musical enthusiasm that the festival encourages. Often, just as many members of the audience are musicians themselves,” he added. “The quality of musicians that step off the boat each year never fails to amaze me.”
Monday night’s Final Fling gave the committee, volunteers and musicians alike the chance to finally relax and enjoy one last night of unforgettable folk music, with many attendees already itching to buy tickets for next year’s festival.