Unst welcomes Tall Ships with week of festivities

With The Tall Ships Races 2011 fast approaching, Cruise in Company guest harbour, Unst, has announced its ambitious week-long programme of festivities and events which will run from 12 to 19 July.

Palais Glide in UnstThe arrival of these magnificent Tall Ships will coincide with the island's popular UnstFest, making for a double celebration. The festival, which is now in its third year, is fast gaining momentum, and is renowned for its diverse and full programme of activities. This year looks set to be a truly spectacular event for the crews as they come ashore as well as for locals and visitors.

A committee is organising the festival together with the incredible support of the local community who have come up with a vast range of events that they hope will draw in the crowds and inspire people to try something new.

Event co-ordinator, Megan Burns, commented: "The UnstFest is extremely popular and takes place over the summer when we traditionally have lots of tourists visiting the island. Every year we try to make it bigger and better, but this July, with a number of Tall Ships and their crews already showing signs that they will come to Unst, we are really pulling out all the stops.

"From the practical to the energetic, from the cultural to the creative, there really is something for everyone. We've retained the popular events from previous years and introduced new ones to keep the festival fresh."

For those interested in the natural wonders of the island, there is the opportunity to take a boat trip to Muckle Flugga and enjoy the spectacular scenery and birdlife of Hermaness as well as Britain's most northerly lighthouse. On dry land there are two guided walks lined up to the stunning Nature Reserves of Keen of Hamar and Hermaness, offering fascinating insights into the local area.

Anyone who likes a creative challenge, with the added pressure of it being set against the clock, should consider taking part in the intriguing new event, 'Theatre Death Race'. Budding thespians are invited to participate in writing, directing and acting a play from scratch in just 24 hours. Megan commented: "We'd really encourage people to get involved with this, whatever their talent. Everyone will be part of a team and can choose how much they want to do. So, if putting together props or scriptwriting is more your thing than acting, then come along and do just that. The plays will be performed the following night at Saxa Vord."

Other events will capture the more quirky, fun spirit of the festival. The bizarre 'Extreme Ironing' competition makes its debut and invites crews, locals and visitors to take part in this odd new craze sweeping the world. Think of the most weird and wonderful place on the island to iron and capture yourself in action in a photograph. For those preferring a less extreme style of photography then they can take part in the UnstFest photo competition which is looking for the best image taken throughout the week – serious or funny, all photos are welcome.

There's plenty to keep the bairns occupied too, such as the U Dance workshops, active school sessions, rollerwheels, racket sports, toddler gym, pool tables, a family day picnic, or a day trip to the Bell and Bullock Circus in Yell. Or join the Family Fun Day on Sunday 17 July at the Baltasound Hotel for a barbecue, children's activities, music and entertainment.

For the older children the competitive spirit is alive and well with pico racing, and new event 'Unbreakables', a knock out style tournament, for anyone aged 16 and over. Also Gladiators, based on the old television show, looks set to pull in the crowds as youngsters compete against local 'gladiators' in a specifically designed course at the leisure centre.

The famous Palais Glide is also not to be missed and will be attempting a new world record this year. Join in and see if the 2009 record of 196 people all taking part in this easy to learn traditional dance can be beaten.

Another popular event is the Open Mic Night at Saxa Vord, which promises an extravaganza of local talent. Come along and take to the stage or just soak up the atmosphere over a drink. It's sure to be a wonderful night.

Throughout the days a series of workshops is planned. Try your hand at traditional crafts such as bannock making, peat casting, knitting and spinning. You'll also get a chance to see some of the wonderful local crafts on display at the 'Made in Unst Exhibition', an eclectic exhibition of contemporary artwork created on Unst. The works will be showcased at Burrafirth Shore Station and will be available to purchase.

For music lovers, the last three nights of the Festival will be of particular interest. Following a chip supper at the Baltasound Hall on the Sunday, stay on for the talented Freda Leask Band as well as other local artists. The next evening is the immensely popular 'Peerie Night Out' with its Up Helly Aa theme. This is your chance to sample some delicious local seafood and gain a real insight into the Up Helly Aa tradition from the Uyeasound Jarl Squad.

The grand finale on Tuesday 19 July will see the fabulous Carnival, which will include the Uyeasound, and guests, South Mainland, Up Helly Aa squads in action, followed by hugely successful Orcadian band, The Silver Penguins, who will play at the Baltasound Hall.

Megan concluded: "We're delighted with the final programme. I've loved every minute of my time working on it and I can't wait to see it all in action. The official programme will be available on both the UnstFest website and Cruise in Company facebook pages. The whole Unst community is braced and ready for what we hope will be our best UnstFest yet!"

Download the UnstFest programme here and visit the Cruise in Company page here.