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Arts / ‘Weather links us in so many ways’ – student calls on community to get involved to create a ‘people’s archive’

A view from Houss over to Papil with some proper weather building out to the west. Photo: Kristi Tait

A SHETLAND College student is about to start creating a “people’s archive about the weather” by capturing memories, images and knowledge about a subject which “connects us all.”

Kristi Tait hopes that people sharing their memories and knowledge of weather will reveal more about how we are “connecting with others and our own selves”.

The Shetland Weather Project is her final work as a MA student of art and social practice at Shetland College, where she is also a lecturer in fine art.

Tait hopes that her initial call for materials will give shape to future workshops.

And she intents to use ‘slow technology’, and hopes to fill her archive with the help of letters, phone calls, interviews and messages left at the end of the road near her home in Burra.

“Weather connects us all, particularly island folk and particularly here in Shetland.  This project is about collecting weather memories, images and surrounding lore to create a people’s archive, rich with that deep meteorologic understanding we already hold,” she said.

“I can’t think of a day that I haven’t heard something passed on about weather. It’s a reassuring language we share with others. It may be the only thing we say that day.

“That spoken relay about the weather as it moves up and down the islands links us in so many ways.”

Kristy Tait: ‘I’m fascinated by the weather, aren’t you? ‘

She added that the project is about capturing and celebrating the knowledge about the weather and forecasting that already exists in the community.

“In the first instance it would be super if we were to capture those passed down sayings and signs about forecasting the weather,” Tait said.

“Weather diaries would be fantastic things to unearth.  And personally I’d be keen to hear about the sledging weather of February 2021.

“My granny had quite a few weather forecast phrases, which of course I never did write down. She had a lovely memory that she spoke of; as a child growing up on Whalsay she could remember watching the herring drifters lying in wait for the right wind to take them and then the sudden ‘whap’ as the sails would fill and they’d be off, racing out the voe.

“So shake down your grannies, ask the bairns. Remember your own stories of weather extremes and pass it on.”

She can be contacted at Kristi Tait, A Shetland Weather Project, Houss, Burra Shetland ZE2 9LE, e-mail: kristitait88@gmail.com

There is also a small exhibition/postal box called KIOSK sitting at the end of the main road on the East Isle of Burra where people can drop off items for the weather project.