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Community / Guizers in high spirits as historic Up Helly Aa procession takes to the streets

HISTORY was made on Tuesday night as women joined men in the Up Helly Aa procession.

Lighting up. Photo: Peter Parker

They were greatly outnumbered, but their presence was still felt as the fire festival returned after two years of Covid postponements.

Large crowds gathered to watch in the windy weather the near 1,000 guizers do their thing before burning the galley in the King George V play park.

The festival is led this year by guizer jarl Neil Moncrieff, who was originally due to take on the role in 2021.

One of the few women taking part in the procession was Ella Sinclair from Lerwick.

Waiting for the lighting up are (left to right): Andy Sandison, Maggie Sandison and Sinclair Henderson. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Speaking after leaving the burning site she said she had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

She added: “[Through family] I have been involved with Up Helly Aa since I was a baby but have not been allowed to take part until now, and it’s great.”

A surprise guizer this year was council chief executive Maggie Sandison who had been invited to join squad number 35 in December last year.

She expressed her hope that women actively participating in the torch lit procession would become the new normal

Photo: Peter Parker

“How could you turn down such an offer,” she said, when asked how she got involved.

“It is fantastic that Up Helly Aa is happening again this year and the community can come together and enjoy the festival, and it is great that from this year we all can be in it.

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“I am absolutely pleased to see it changing, and so pleased that Up Helly Aa is back this year.”

Meanwhile, another guizer, the council’s depute convener Bryan Peterson said new squad members joining could only be a good thing.

“As older squad members stop coming out, new members join. We have five new members this year and three of them are lasses whose dads have been in the squad since they were fiddlebox carriers. It’s the traditional progression.

“It’s a very welcome development that squads can invite women to join and it’s splendid to see so many young folk getting involved. They bring fresh ideas and keep us older guizers on our toes!”

Read more about the Up Helly Aa day on the Shetland News website.

The galley is consumed by the flames. Photo: Chris Brown

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