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Well, the weather today couldn’t have been more different than the last few days. It’s been warm, bright, sunny and generally glorious. We decided to take a trip to Unst with two objectives:

1) to record a colony of nesting birds
2) for Kay to document various species, including frog orchids, at the Keen of Hamar, a Scottish Natural Heritage National Nature Reserve… (there’s a mouthful!)

The Keen of Hamar was exceptionally quiet, but I did manage to capture what I thought was a gannet flying close overhead, checking me out…

And after driving to Hermaness National Nature Reserve and a two hour hike to get to the cliffs at the northernmost tip of the UK, we finally came across a large colony of gannets and other species nesting on a rock just off the headland; so I stood on the cliffs above and recorded the “thrum”. It sounded more machine-like than organic, the phasing of the multiple noises blurring into what sounded like a huge, single bird machine.

We did try and go to the Shetland Reel music festival for a few hours at Haroldswick, but anxieties about booking a ferry home (or rather not having pre-booked and possibly being stuck on Unst for the night) meant we rushed off after a late lunch to get the ferries home, in time to enjoy a quick pint at the Pierhead in Voe.



Two days of incessant rain meant that yesterday was not exactly conducive to going out into the landscape! So we spent most of the day in the booth. We designed the invitation for our final open studio event on the last Friday of our residency and I spent most of the day writing to people inviting them. I also formulated new ideas about how the community engagement programme would work (pending our funding bid to Creative Scotland) and wrote to a number of teachers and community engagement officers I know in a search for partners.

And that was about it! But this morning is another story. As the picture above shows. The stillest, most exquisitely tranquil view yet out of the booth.


post by Joseph)

A day of rain… A day for staying indoors and catching up on sound and photo editing and compiling. We took ourselves out briefly at midday to go and visit a couple of knitters near Cunningsburgh (one to commission a new cardigan for Kay and the other to pick up and pay for a previous purchase).

The sound of Barbara Isbister¬†with her knitting machine, producing Kay a spontaneous sample of her work so she could choose the right colours for her new cardie sent me scurrying out to the car to collect my mics so I could record her in action. Please listen on a good pair of headphones…

On the way home we came across some abandoned agricultural buildings just outside Lerwick and I used the opportunity to record the sound of the rain on the corrugated roof. Again, please listen on headphones…



Today we went to Nesting to visit a colleague from when I was here in 2010 – the headteacher at the time of Olnafirth Primary School, who instigated the sculpture commission I came to Shetland for. When I first came to Shetland back then, I stayed in Nesting, in an unforgettable place called Gletness. So we went back to Gletness and met the croft-owner whose chalet I stayed in. He already had one of the most authentic wonderful houses I have seen in Shetland with the best conservatory ever, principally because of the most stupendous view across rocky islets and shimmering water with oysters and seals swimming around. Now they are building an extension on the footprint of a long-ruined croft alongside, so it will be even more amazing than before!

Then we went to Eswick, the next promontory, and walked across the hills and fields to where I thought I remembered I had once come across a sturdy bench built into the top of the cliff-edge. Such an unusual thing to find in such a remote place! Well, my memory served me well and there it was. Really hidden – so much so that Joseph didn’t think there was anything there beyond a sheer drop into the water below.

After that we had a budget meeting in Mareel, where we could rely on better internet speed than at the booth, which foxed Joseph’s attempts at uploading yesterday’s sound file….

And finally we headed down to Burra, where we were surprised by a friendly pony and an abundance of birdsong and, even nicer, we were invited in for a cup of tea to a house we were walking past and it turns out we met 5 years ago at the opening of my sculptures in Voe. Only in Shetland! (And it seems to happen on an almost daily basis here too!)


(post by Joseph)

Today we went to the Cunningsburgh show! This is the biggest agricultural show in Shetland.

The post is subtitled “Old MacDonald” after the sound file below… You’ll understand why when you hear it! I had fun recording lots of individual animal sounds with my condenser mic rather than the binaurals I have been using up until now.

*Geek Alert*¬†Condenser mics are highly directional and only record on one channel rather than in stereo and are therefore able to pick up sounds both at close range and far away that are directly in front of the microphone – this is in direct contrast to the binaural mics which are worn in the ears (like personal stereo headphones) and capture everything that the wearer is hearing in a 360 degree arc…

Kay had a fantastic time photographing the various entries to the show – animal, vegetable and mineral – see the hilarious vegetable sculpture. Knitting featured highly as well, with purchases of socks, a headband and gloves, and a possible jumper commission to follow!!!


The venue was packed with locals, the biggest event we have seen so far, with cars parked way beyond the official car park for miles – very different from the quiet and solitude we have been experiencing up until today.