As we approach the date of another postponed Lerwick Up Helly Aa, many people will be fondly remembering happy times and looking forwards to better days.
The Up Helly Aa Committee have said the much loved celebration will return next year “in the same format”. On the concerns about the sexist nature of the town’s fire festivals, however, they say nothing.
Apparently, they won’t even engage with their MP and MSP on the issue, despite having been written to by them over two years ago.
Times are changing though, and these last two years have given many people pause for reflection on what kind of society they want to live in. We have had a chance to put ourselves into the shoes of others and consider what it might be like to have your school lunch as your only warm meal of the day, or to be locked down with an abusive partner.
More and more people now have mixed emotions and reservations about aspects of the festivals as they were, and, surprisingly, as they still seem set to continue.
Some will feel ashamed for how they have portrayed black men in the past. Others are rightly concerned about the ongoing impacts of excluding women and girls.
Racism is harmful and informs racist violence. The same goes for sexism and sexist discrimination. They feed into violence against women, and Shetland’s statistics here are definitely nothing to be proud of.
Up Helly Aa has a very important role in Shetland. Let’s hope those who really care about Lerwick Up Helly Aa can quickly find the courage to start the difficult conversations necessary to save it from further shame, so that those who want to go out in squads, attend halls or simply watch the procession, can continue to do so without reservation.