About the Festival
The 40th Festival will be held between 29th April and 2nd May 2021 and is the UK's most northerly folk festival. Organised by a voluntary committee, the Festival prides itself in reaching out to even the most far flung areas of Shetland. Concerts are organised throughout the isles, consisting of some of the best International, British and Shetland music that the world has to offer.
The Festival has always been organised by a dedicated committee of volunteers who during the festival weekend rely on an enormous pool of committed helpers that assist in making the event run smoothly. Without the families who open their homes to accommodate the Festival artistes, the voluntary stewards at the Festival Club, The Lerwick Boating Club and others who run the Club bars, the raffle and merchandise sellers at venues, the shop staff, drivers, the country hall committees and overall Shetland hospitality, the Shetland Folk Festival simply would not be the success that it is continuously famed for.
The first festival was held in 1981 and has grown steadily throughout the years. It originated with a conversation held between the late Dr Tom Anderson and Charlie Simpson who had played at several festivals on mainland Scotland with the Shetland Fiddler's Society. Why shouldn't Shetland have a festival too, they wondered, and so the planning began. This was the ideal event to celebrate Shetland's own unique fiddle tradition and rich musical heritage. The inaugural organising committee was formed and in affirming their pride in Shetland's own musical tradition, the decision was made that local performers would share the concert platforms with visiting artistes. With people like the late Willie Hunter to promote, there was no fear that local talent would be wanting. This is a formula that has continued through all 38 Festivals to date.
Among the artistes performing at the first festival in 1981 were Kathryn Tickell, the late Sean McGuire and Dick Gaughan whose verdict after the 4 day event was "This Festival requires a Government Health Warning - Nobody sleeps"
This, too, is a formula that has continued throughout the 38 years!
Here are some of the comments and remarks made about the Festival by visiting artistes:
"This Festival requires a Government Health Warning - Nobody sleeps"
Dick Gaughan, 1981
"This is not like any kind of festival we've been used to playing at; it's just like playing at one long party"
Norman from Wild Geese, 1985
"Sleep ranks low on the Shetland priority list"
Sue Wilson, music journalist, 2002
"This has been one of the best years of my life this weekend"
Brian Wicklund, Brother Mule, 2008
"A life changing experience"
Tim Hackett, Rory Ellis Duo, 2008