Jono Sandilands, Graphic Designer and Screen Printer introduces us to Shetland’s bubbling creative scene.

This year sees the opening of Shetland Arts’ much anticipated music, cinema and creative industries centre, Mareel in Shetland’s capital, Lerwick. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the opening of what will be the most northerly venue of its type in the UK and, for me personally, it’s particularly exciting because it offers a real promise of a bright creative future for Shetland.

image by Mark Sinclair

This future will include audiences enjoying concerts in a purpose built venue; education and production facilities available to the public; and a dedicated cinema with two screens and films shown seven days per week. I’m aware that a dedicated cinema may not sound like much to someone living in the UK Mainland, but such a resource in a community like Shetland is totally indispensable.

While Mareel will act as a hub to Shetland’s exciting creative scene, this unique venue only begins to scratch the surface of what Shetland has to offer.

image by Shetland Arts

Traditional Shetland music is well known and played throughout the entire world, but the very best way to experience authentic traditional Shetland music is by visiting one of Lerwick’s pubs, The Lounge, on a Wednesday night when local and visiting musicians alike all gather for an impromptu session.

image by Chris Wright

One of the most exciting developments in the contemporary music scene right now is the Shetland Young Promoters Group – a group of young people who work together to put on and promote their own events throughout the Isles.

Northern Focus Parkour is a group of young people in Shetland that has come together because of Parkour, Free Running and Tricking. NFPK has nearly 40 active members in the community and more wanting to join every week.

image by Shetland Arts

The Garrison Theatre shows a mixture of amateur and professional productions from local groups including Shetland Youth Theatre, Serpentine Drama, Islesburgh Drama Group and a range of different types of dance groups as well as occasional national touring productions.

image by Jono Sandilands/Shetland Arts and Crafts

The Shetland Arts & Crafts Association is a group of craft-makers who run a number of innovative projects such as The Craft Trail which is an excellent and comprehensive introduction to part of Shetland’s creative scene. The Craft Trail facilitates public visits to artist and designers studios, allowing a rare close look at the source of Shetland’s craft-makers’ creativity.

Veer North is a professional association of visual artists set up in 2003 in order to provide a supportive and professional network for artists in Shetland. Their members try to encourage debate while also developing opportunities for artists in Shetland and beyond.

Shameless self promotion time: Also check out Co:Lab – a collective group I am involved in. We meet every week to work on projects together to motivate one another on the never ending quest for creative satisfaction outside our 9-5 jobs. Plus its good fun!

image by North Rock Gallery

image by North Rock Gallery

image by Bonhoga Gallery

Some other great creative points of interest in Shetland including Shetland Museum and Archives , Bonhoga Gallery, North Rock Gallery and Vaila Fine Art. All these venues offer great opportunities to view and buy local, national and international artwork, as well as shopping for great gifts for friends and family.

If you are out and about Shetland then you will need to refuel and there are some great places to do this and get a taste of some fresh local food at the same time. For restaurant food, my top choices are The Scalloway Hotel and Monty’s Bistro, Lerwick. My favorite for pub grub is at The Pierhead Bar and Restaurant in Voe, a brilliant picturesque town, which serves great local food. And for a takeaway

Frankie’s Fish and Chip Shop is the most northerly award winning fish and chip shop in the UK and rumour has it, staff can name the fishing boat that caught your dinner!

Shetland must have the highest amount of festivals per head of population in the UK, if not in the world! Here are a few, I’m sure there’s more.

Up Helly Aa
Shetland Jazz Festival
Shetland Folk Festival
Shetland Nature Festival
Fiddle Frenzy
Shetland Blues Festival
Peerie Willie Guitar Festival
Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival
Thomas Fraser Memorial Festival
Shetland Wool Week
Wordplay Book Festival
Screenplay Film Festival
Christmas Craft Fair
Shetland Food Festival

As you can see – we love festivals! That’s 14 every year, so if you plan to visit Shetland at anytime of year, you are spoilt for choice to indulge in some of our creativity!

More about Shetland Arts
For more information about Shetland go to

Feel free to add any comments or suggestions about your experience of the arts scene in Shetland below.

More: Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Creative Scene is an insight into different creative & cultural happenings in cities where your members and readers live. Browse through more insider guides here or contact us to write about the arts scene where you are.