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Community / Lerwick Up Helly Aa festivals postponed until 2022

Lerwick Up Helly Aa 2019. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

NEXT year’s Lerwick Up Helly Aa, due to be held on Tuesday 26 January 2021, has been postponed for a year, the festival committee announced on Wednesday.

The junior event for 2021, meanwhile, has been cancelled.

The announcement has been expected for some time and comes just days after the Nesting and Girlsta Up Helly Aa committee also postponed its festival.

The Scalloway Fire Festival, due on the second Friday in January, had already been postponed some weeks ago.

The Lerwick Up Helly Aa committee said the decision not to go ahead with the world renowned festival at the end of January due to the ongoing uncertainties with regards Covid-19 restrictions had been a particularly hard one.

Committee secretary Robert Geddes said the decision had been taken unanimously following consultation with key partners of the festival.

A statement issued on Wednesday morning reads: “The decision has been an extremely hard one to make but the committee have a responsibility to the community of Shetland to ensure the festival does not contribute to the spread of Covid-19.

“The nature of Up Helly Aa, the numbers involved and the potential of large numbers of visitors to the isles are all risks that were taken into account.

“The festival going ahead in its current format would be difficult with any restrictions in place and with uncertainty surrounding what guidance would be in place in January meant there was no guarantee the festival could happen at all.

“The health and safety of the community, participants and the many volunteers it takes to deliver the festival was the priority of committee members when making the decision.”

Meanwhile, the committee organising the Junior Up Helly Aa festival said the 2021 event had been cancelled.

A spokesman said: “The junior festival will be cancelled rather than postponed, as no junior jarl has been elected for the 2021 festival. The election normally takes place in September.

“The Junior Up Helly Aa committee agrees with our senior counterparts that the health and safety of the community, participants and the many volunteers it takes to deliver the festival must be a priority.”

The next Lerwick Up Helly Aa festivals will take place on 25 January 2022.