Letters / The end of the beginning of Up Helly Aa transformation

Well, ‘the decision’, whilst welcomed, certainly by some, and certainly not all but a very active, literate, tenacious (obsessed?) minority – bravo or is it brava – the feminine form, is of course just the beginning.

Social media reaction and speculation is raising more questions than answers from the ‘never happy’ chatterati, if my conversation with two UHA women stalwarts of five decades standing, is anything to go by.

Women and girls allowed: gender restriction removed on Lerwick Up Helly Aa squads

So not the end, nor the beginning of the end of the Lerwick Up Helly Aa, but the end of the beginning of its transformation. The devil will be in the details, which must now immediately occupy the ‘occupy LK UHA’ movement and gossip-mongers/chatterati.

No gains, unfortunately, around societal, deeply ingrained, misogyny, male violence (alcohol fuelled or not) and general ongoing women and other genders oppression e.g. women’s wages in caring, cleaning, hospitality, tourism, retail or promotion into ‘ traditional’ work roles of fishing, oil & gas industry, wind, engineering, trades, not to mention ongoing absence of multifarious gendered councillors – SIC and community, despite recent leadership victories – men still chairing the powerhouse committees.  These important, substantive sociological issues remain completely untouched by Hamilton et al, despite their valiant efforts.


How do we get/ensure women, trans-gendered, lesbian, gay, queer and + people into squads now? Positive discrimination, quotas, gender only squads? Looking forward to the detailed proposals from the ‘winning team’ shortly.

The principal limiting factor is, and has ultimately largely been, the size of the play park burning site: 950-1,000 torch bearers.

Unless we go for a Clickimin Loch burning as per 1960’s Hamefarin’ or Sletts launch (some construction work required by the women/ other gender, torch-makers, galley builders, bill drafters and bill head designers! Too soon to go there?


Anyway, lots to go at. Don’t mention austerity, energy bills, fuel and food prices, lifeline transport services – internal and external – new hospital, fixed links, Shetland autonomy, out of town housing developments, the drug pandemic, trades shortages but a construction industry wanting council housing contracts? Go figure!

James J Paton



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