Wow, my faith in a community spirit has been restored.
Last night was Up Helly Aa in Lerwick. 956 Guisers with 880 6ft long flaming torches processed through the town towing a Viking galley before buring it to accompanying fireworks. The Guiser Jarl, Rae Simpson and his squad of 44 Vikings have been planning this for the last 4 years or so, designing and making costumes, the galley, torches and other necessaries, seeking local finacial support and using their own money for a project that can cost towards £100k!
Not only that, but the Jarl Squad process round the schools, old peoples home and the like, present awards and attend charity fundraisers too. It's a real privilege for one to be invited in to the Jarl squad in particular and to be The Guiser Jarl is a real dream for some as you need to be on the committee for 15 years to even get a shot, and getting on the committe is no piece of cake.
Other squads of Guisers dress up usually along a theme that takes the mick out of some one or some event, often as women, hence the other name for the day as Transvestite Tuesday. They have acts to entertain people as they tour the local halls through the early hours.
With 880 torches going past, we lined the roads with no barriers, limited and un-interferring police prescence, people from babies to pensioners and no anti-social behaviour of any kind where we were. No burger vans, hawkers selling flags, t-shirts or the like; just families having a good time and trusting each other to be sensible.
The night really gets going after the procession as the squads tour various halls doing their acts, drinking and having fun until around 7am the following morning. It's not all over then though, after a brief recovery period they've got the Hop (dance) this evening. Only those with serious stamina, commitment and an ability to drink need apply!
And here's one squad practising their act to give you a flavour of the silliness...