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After an uneventful day working away in the booth whilst the rain continued to pour down outside, the skies finally cleared for a while and we headed outside. I didn’t have a particular plan in mind, but I thought it would be good to explore the local area on foot, so we headed around the coast towards the fisheries.

And this it what we came across – the Viking Festival of Fish!!! What a treat, several dozen fishermen unloading their boats full of line-caught fish to be weighed and logged by the organisers. All surrounded by a swarm of eager gulls eager for the cast-offs. The place was buzzing and the sounds were many and diverse. The sounds of fish being thrown into the catch baskets, heavy boxes being dragged along the floor, measurements being logged, excited chatter from an assembled crowd and the sound of hungry birds scrapping over scraps…

What an absolute treat and a privilege to witness – my favourite sounds of the trip so far…



(Post by Kay)

Today was very foggy and dull, so fittingly we spent most of the day working on our computers in the booth.

Joseph did a lot of admin and contacted various press bodies including Shetland Times, Shetland News and BBC Shetland Radio about our open studio event on Friday and also contacted WASPS (who run the studio) about running a performance/sharing event in Glasgow following the exhibition next April.

I spent most of the day taking my final batch of microscope photographs of the remaining plant specimens that I have gathered this week and started a long list, from which I intend to select a number to draw up into designs.

I also had a very productive meeting at Scalloway Primary School. The headteacher is not only very keen to get involved in this project, but is also really enthusiastic about getting me to do something for the outdoor space. Pending funding of course! So we will see what happens with that.

I just went out to take to try to capture the incredible mystical ambience the fog is creating in the harbour, creating a ghost ship through the reflections in the water…



(Post by Kay)

Today we had a meeting with the director of Shetland Museum and Archives, and the education coordinator, first day back for both after several weeks on leave. So it’s been a while coming, considering this is probably the most important meeting of the residency. Only one week left!

We talked through all the ins and outs regarding our plans for the exhibition, the minutiae of the opening event, the workshops that will accompany the show, and many more things besides. The opening day looks set to be packed with activities, starting at the museum with a workshop in the morning, followed by an afternoon opening and ending with a performance event at Mareel.

We then had a very productive walk around the gallery space, planning the layout, interpretation, documentation and hanging. It feels like it’s going to work! It’s a lovely space. I have a lot of walls to fill! But actually, I don’t necessarily. Less is more was the director’s attitude. So I think I will concentrate on making panels for two walls facing each other, which are pretty far apart as it is a big space. It will be darkened, with seating down the middle, and the sound will be a four-channel system with small, stand-based speakers positioned around the listening area in the centre, where visitors will be able to sit and look at the walls whilst being immersed in ambient sound. We will have an ante-room with a simple description of the exhibition, then the work in the main space and another ‘room’ on the other side containing more detailed interpretation, all the documentation, including a video (hopefully), the maps showing the locations and routes of the walks, and a series of smaller ceramic panels for sale. We also plan to publish an artist’s book/catalogue/CD.

After that we met some friends for lunch in the museum restaurant, which was wonderful especially as Frances, the community development officer who was my main point of contact when I was here working on the public art commission before, is 8 months and 3 weeks pregnant. So there may be a new arrival while we are still here…!

Then in the afternoon we went off seal hunting. One sound Joseph has not managed to record yet is seals. Strangely we have not seen many seals during our time on Shetland. So we have been asking around about where we can find some, of course, in a quiet spot away from human/traffic noises…not easy! Especially as it seems to be the wrong time of year. So we did not find any, even after following the track over the stile at the end of the field and round several rocky coves….nothing. So Joseph recorded a trickling stream and waves crashing against the rocks instead while I filmed flowers and grasses blowing furiously in the wind for our promo film. Oh and collected a few more specimens hitherto ungathered on other walks…

In the evening we went off to visit some more friends who live in an amazing house – formerly a croft – that has been painstakingly renovated by the owner (as everyone seems to do here), with impressive dexterity and skill (considering he is not a builder by trade). The view is straight out over the water where they watch the resident otters regularly. We didn’t see them unfortunately, but while we were there, we watched all kinds of birds swooping around and a marvellous sunset. Vaila and Dougie have horses, ponies, sheep, boats, and a lovely family. We all sat around the kitchen table swapping stories. Charming.


(Post by Kay)

Today the weather was back to beautiful after several grey days of fog this past week. It was gloriously sunny and ferociously windy.

We started the day off going to visit potential accommodation for next year, which is perfect – a very comfortable, well-appointed flat just down the road in Hamnavoe, Burra, with stupendous uninterrupted views. There is a track leading straight down to a rocky cove next along from Meal Beach (where we went on the sunniest day we’ve had so far to film and encountered an arc of pure white sand with families enjoying the stunning weather and swimming in the sea… so that’s pretty nice!) Burra has the reputation for being where all the artists live. It’s the Brighton of Shetland so we will be at home! Here is a shed we passed on the way out of Hamnavoe.

First place we stopped was Hillswick, a lovely little place with an active community organisation that runs a shop and we came across a wonderful community park filled with quirky, creative sculptures and seating.

Then off to Eshaness. I have heard many Shetlanders express that this is their favourite place in Shetland. It’s in the far north west of Northmavine, which, geographically, looks almost like an island, attached to the rest of mainland by a small strip of land. It feels different. It is more barren, certainly more wind-swept, and the communities feel more remote, which, in fact, they are! I got more of a sense of perhaps what it used to be like on Shetland, when crofting was the way of life. The more time we spend here, the more people we speak to, and learn all the time about this place, which is fascinating and really aides the development of this piece of work.

Eshaness has a lighthouse and is famous for its wild, rocky coastline fringed with vertical cliffs and crashing waves, stacks, arches and sites of special geological interest. We went for a walk, all the time being thrown about by the blustery wind, which made filming very challenging! Joseph did manage to capture a variety of sounds of water on audio – about all he could hear against the background of the wind! Chirping of birds was not really a possibility today.

Then we went off to visit a friend who lives in North Roe, the village which is farthest north on the mainland. Ivona and her husband moved to Shetland 11 years ago and are leading a crofting life with all kinds of animals, growing their own food and basically living “the good life”, producing everything they need to survive. They cut their own peat (everyone in Shetland does – right now it’s “bagging up season” and we often see figures out in the heath turning the stacks of peat into bags for winter fuel). Iwona spins and dyes wool from her own flock. She can even tell you the name of the sheep the wool comes from! Check her out on FB: the Creative Croft. That’s a change since I was here five years ago; on several occasions I have been invited to “like” a Facebook page when purchasing artisanal products. My favourite has been the goats milk soap from the goats we saw at Walls Show. Luxurious!

The last appointment of the day was with Helen Robertson, headteacher of Hamnavoe Primary School. Helen used to teach in Olnafirth primary, where I made the playground sculptures, and she is very keen to get involved in the community element we are putting together to run alongside the exhibition next year. She is also very enthusiastic to get me back to make something for the school grounds, and I’m going there to have a meeting about it this week. Which would be nice!

Anyway while we were there she hauled out her husband’s Jarl outfit that he wore when he was the chief man in Up Helly Aa, Shetland’s main event, a winter festival involving fire, Vikings and Scottish dancing in abundance (equal measures). Up Helly Aa happens in every Shetland community, but the biggest is of course in Lerwick, so to be Jarl there is an honour indeed! I’m not sure how I ended up dressing up in the costume but Joseph was unkind enough to snap me! Oops! (Read expression: upon being told to look fierce!)


(post by Joseph)

It was a bright day and we took ourselves to the Sheep Dog Trials at Skeld. Our friend Rob from Yell who entering his dog, had given us directions, “drive to Skeld and look for a bunch of pickups in a field!”. Sure enough we drove into Skeld and right by the village hall was a field of pickups and small groups of (mostly) men standing around with their dogs waiting to be called onto the field,  watching and discussing the action.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen/heard a sheep dog trial in the flesh (I remember watching sheep dog trials on TV as a teenager) and it was a fascinating and delightful social event. I captured the trials from a number of different perspectives and the clip below is from relatively close-up – the combination of voice commands and whistling is both hypnotic and startling. You’ll hear what I mean.

After this, we drove to Culswick to carry on with our crowd-funding film. We parked up by a couple of houses, in a tranquil spot at the end a long dirt track, that opened out onto a beautiful bay. We spent a while here, picking flowers and recording the sounds of the small valley that leads to the sea.