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There was much speculation about who would be “cutting the ribbon” for Mareel as part of the venue’s Official Opening this past weekend, and the answer was unexpected yet fitting: everyone. On Saturday 17th November, Shetlanders and visitors to the Isles were pleasantly surprised when they walked through the doors of Mareel to find smiling volunteers and Shetland Arts’ staff who presented them with a cupcake, sweetie, and the opportunity to cut a piece of ribbon to mark the moment of Mareel’s opening. These cuts of ribbon were then pinned to jumpers, jackets, bags, lapels, and even teddy bears, before guests went in to attend a film, or listen to some live music in the Café Bar accompanied by a hot drink and a snack.

Magnus Watt, 9 years old, and Fraser Watt, 5 years old, cutting the ribbon. Photo by Craig Birnie.

A number of other surprises were revealed across the Opening Weekend: 60̊ North, Promote Shetland’s online broadcasting initiative, successfully trialled live streaming the Opening Celebrations Speeches and Opening Weekend events, including Aberfeldy, Shetland Meets Appalachia, and Dougie MacLean, with the help of local volunteers and Mareel/UHI music students. These were viewed online by fans that couldn’t make it on the night and allowed the Opening Celebrations to be even more accessible to everyone interested.

As well as this, the brand new Mareel Ale, made by Valhalla Brewery in Unst, was launched and many a visitor was seen trying a bottle or two. The ale is described as “very light, with a clean, crisp, and slightly fruity finish, leaving its drinkers with an all-over glow.” It is on sale exclusively in Mareel and is no doubt set to become a familiar taste for visitors to the venue.

Mareel Ale, made by Valhalla Brewery. Photo by Craig Birnie.

Friday evening saw an enchanting performance by Scottish indie-band Aberfeldy – described by The Scotsman as “One of the most winningly diverse bands to emerge in recent years” – with a background of twinkling star cloth and solid support from singer/songwriter Chris Bradley.

Saturday saw Shetland Meets Appalachia – a exploration of our common musical roots featuring Bruce Molsky and Special Shetland Guests playing to a packed Main Auditorium. This was the last performance in a series of concerts across Shetland which featured performances in Muckle Roe and Cullivoe during the week. For his second visit to Shetland (his first was as part of this years’ Trans-Atlantic Sessions concert) Bruce teamed up with some of Shetland’s finest home-based musicians such as Gary Peterson, Maurice Henderson, Maggie Adamson and Brian Nicholson, the Cullivoe Fiddlers, the Heritage Fiddlers, Lynda Anderson, Ryan Cooper, Freda Leask, Peter Woord, Hom Bru, Haltadans, Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag, and Sheila Henderson to explore the roots and commonality between the North American and Shetland traditions. And, as you would expect with such an incredible line-up, the session in the Café Bar afterwards lasted late into the night!

Dougie MacLean managed to draw an almost sell-out crowd on the Sunday evening, a testament to his enduring popularity and talent, and rounded off the Opening Weekend celebrations perfectly with many singalong moments.

During the day on Saturday there was live music in the Café Bar from midday to concert time, then on into the late hours, and then early on Sunday artist Callum Moncrieff opened the very first exhibition in the Upstairs Café Bar to an appreciative gathering of art-fans.

Session in the Cafe Bar. Photo by Craig Birnie.

Shetland Arts’ Marketing Officer, Lisa Ward, said: “We’re delighted with how well the Opening Weekend has gone. It was a real joy to see everyone who walked through the door cut a piece of the ribbon and declare the building officially open – exactly in the spirit of the weekend. The events, too, summed up exactly what Mareel is all about – showcasing excellent talent from Shetland and beyond, as well as emphasising Mareel’s links with venues around the Isles, as is the case for the Shetland Meets Appalachia events. The Official Opening Weekend was all about celebrating with everyone, so we’d like to say thanks to everyone who did pop in to mark the moment with us, and to all that didn’t make it – how about coming along to another event soon, perhaps this weekend?”

The next big gig in Mareel is Vic Galloway Presents: The Phantom Band, Honeyblood, and The Last this Saturday, 24th November. Tickets for this event can be purchased via Shetland Box Office in Mareel and Islesburgh, over the phone on 01595 745 555 or 01595 745 500, and online here.

The Phantom Band

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