Arts / Town councillor questions Mareel opening plans

Shetland Arts chief says ‘we will need to make significant changes to how Mareel operates so we can do so in a safe way for our users and staff’

An aerial view of Mareel. Photo: Ian Leask
An aerial view of Mareel. Photo: Ian Leask

A LERWICK councillor has questioned why Mareel is only being reopened at the end of August – saying that its cinema would be beneficial to families and young people.

Stephen Leask said he has been contacted by a number a constituents over the 31 August reopening date.

Councillor Stephen Leask.

“I would have thought during this time of lockdown they would have been champing at the bit to open up faster,” he said.


Cinemas and cafes/restaurants in Scotland will be allowed to reopen from tomorrow (Wednesday) with appropriate social distancing measures in place.

Leask added that mental health and wellbeing was a key issue during the coronavirus pandemic and that going to cinema for instance could benefit younger people during the summer holidays.

“Mareel was built on the premise of helping the communities of Shetland,” he added, “and I don’t feel they are doing that.”

The nearby museum, run by Shetland Amenity Trust, is due to open reopen on Thursday with social distancing and hygiene measures in place.


Leask claimed the approaches of the two trusts felt like “chalk and cheese”.

In response Shetland Arts chief executive Graeme Howell said the organisation was undertaking a phased approach to reopening.

The outdoor area at Bonhoga is set to open first on 1 August before Mareel and the rest of Bonhoga follow on 31 August.

Howell added that within Mareel alone staff would have to adhere to three separate pieces of government guidance.

“We are currently planning to reopen Mareel at the end of August in line with our students returning to study with us,” he explained.

“We will be operating under three different sets of sector guidance – education, cinema, and café/bar – and will need to make significant changes to how Mareel operates so we can do so in a safe way for our users and staff.

“We’re delighted to see folk keen to return, we are looking forward to reopening and thank everyone for their patience for a few more weeks.”