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Entertainment / Committee ‘utterly delighted’ with 40th folk festival

The all important informal sessions in the festival club were restricted to daytime only. Photo: Malcolm Younger/Millgeat Media

VISITING musicians will be leaving Shetland today (Monday) after the weekend’s busy folk festival – with its organising committee very pleased with how things went.

Committee member Mhari McLeman said the festival was close to selling out its 6,250 tickets.

She said the committee is “totally and utterly delighted” with how things at the 40th festival went.

The Shetland Folk Festival was called off in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic, so the weekend was eagerly anticipated.

The number of acts and events was scaled back this time around, with the committee going for a cautious approach as Covid restrictions ease.

Mareel on Saturday night. Photo: Lieve Boussauw

Larger venues like Mareel and Clickimin, which have better ventilation, were used more often, and prior to kick-off everyone involved was asked to be “responsible and respectful”.

“A lot of people have also said this was the first time they’ve felt normal in over two years,” McLeman added.

“It’s been really important for building I think folk’s confidence in terms of getting out and mixing again.”

Scottish folk music legend Dougie MacLean kicked off the 40th Shetland Folk Festival on Thursday night. Photo: Malcolm Younger/Millgeat Media

Concerts were held from Thursday to Sunday, with daytime sessions in the Islesburgh club.

McLeman described the festival as a “massive financial risk” as it returned from its Covid delays.

But the popularity of this year’s event with visitors to Shetland – there were hundreds in attendance – helped to make the festival financially viable.

Reflecting on four days of music, Shetland News reviewer Caroline McKenzie said the instruction from committee member Lisa Johnson for Sunday night’s Foy at Mareel had been ‘soak it all up and go for it’, and the packed auditorium was more than happy to oblige.

Canadia duo J.P. Cormier (right) and Dave Gunning in the big kirk on Thursday evening. Photo: Chris Brown

“We were treated to soulful singing, wild instrumentals and some excellent banter, all underscored by the sheer joy of being part of this weekend-long musical celebration,” she said.

“It’s the visiting acts who take centre stage at the foys but, as ever, they’ve been unanimous in their admiration and respect for the local performers with whom they’ve shared billing at the various concerts over the previous three days.

“There have been some potentially major glitches and headaches for the hard-working committee along the way, but they’ve pulled off a remarkable feat in creating a festival that, at last, gave many of us the feeling that life is returning to normal after the pandemic.

“I attended my very first folk festival in 1972 and, in fifty years, the joy of listening to different acts whose music can make me laugh and cry, sing and dance has never left me. On the strength of this past weekend, I don’t think it ever will.

“It’s great to be able to say that the Shetland Folk Festival is finally back – with a bang. Roll on 2023!”

Danish band Habadekuk dished up an unforgettable live experience. Photo: Malcolm Younger/Millgeat Media


Irish singer Heidi Talbot making her debut Shetland Folk Festival. Photo: Lieve Boussauw


Festival committee member Lewie Peterson introducing Ross & Ryan Couper at the Clickimin concert on Friday night. Photo: Lieve Boussauw


2021 Young Fiddler of the Year Magnus Williamson was the first artist on stage at Saturday night’s concert at Mareel. Photo: Lieve Boussauw


Finnish septet Frigg at Clickimin on Saturday night. Photo: Chris Brown


Haltadans and Kevin at the Ringin’ Strings concert on Friday. Photo: Chris Brown.