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Community / Up Helly Aa equality dialogue not imminent

A LOCAL group campaigning for women to be allowed to go out guizing at Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa has said it will consider its options after being told by the festival’s committee that a possible meeting to discuss the controversial issue would not happen any time soon.

Almost 900 torch bearing are taking part in the procession. Chris Brow’s photo is from 2020.

Up Helly Aa for Aa had written to the Up Helly Aa committee last week after the festival’s secretary Robert Geddes appeared to say during an interview on local radio that talks might be a possibility.

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However, he did not specify whether these would be talks with the various groups that make up the Up Helly Aa community, or a dialogue with those demanding change to the rules on who goes out guizing.

“There is something there I think to have a sensible discussion, but I think everybody needs to come round the table and accept that there are going to be different views,” he told Radio Shetland on 25 January.

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His comments came after equality campaigner Peter Hamilton staged a silent vigil outside Lerwick Town Hall in protest of the council’s support for a community event that he says discriminates against women.

Debra Nicolson of Up Helly Aa for Aa said the group had written to Geddes asking for an early meeting.

The group has also been in touch with mediation specialists at Market House to draw in special skills to help conduct any such talks.

On Thursday Nicolson said she had received a response from Geddes which appeared to quash any hopes for an early meeting.

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Geddes wrote: “I have noted your request, and we will bring this to the next meeting of the committee. At this point there is no date for the next meeting, but I will be in touch when it happens.”

Nicolson said she was disappointed with response and would now consult with group members as to their next move.

She also said a number of younger women had expressed the wish to be part of a squad and  added that she hopes they could be part of any talks that might take place.

Robert Geddes did not respond to numerous attempts by Shetland News to contact him this week.

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