The annual Northmavine Up-Helly-Aa is a spectacular Viking fire festival which celebrates the end of winter and the return of the sun
Various squads of guizers meet secretly throughout the winter, planning the theme for their act or skit which they perform in various local halls on Up-Helly-Aa night. This is often a humourous take on a story from the local or national news.
On the third Friday of every February, the guizers dress up in themed costumes and, with flaming torches lighting up the dark winter sky, the procession makes its way from the Hillswick Hall along the main road to the loch at Urafirth. The procession is led by a squad of Vikings, the Jarl Squad, headed by the Guizer Jarl who is the specially chosen leader for that year. A brass band provides the rousing music for the traditional Up-Helly-Aa songs, and spectators line the route as the Jarl Squad pull a Viking galley to the burning site. The flaming torches are thrown into the galley, and as the guizers and onlookers disperse to a night of revelry in local halls, the galley is left ablaze on the water, like a mythical Norse funeral pyre.
Each year, 3 of the 4 local halls used - Hillswick, Ollaberry, North Roe and Sullom - take it in turn to host Up-Helly-Aa. The guizers go from hall to hall through the night performing their act. The other hall then hosts the
Hop the following night. If that isn't enough revelry, guizers and those directly involved in Up-Helly-Aa attend the Return night around a week later, where they can see each others acts.
Various Up-Helly-Aas are held all over Shetland through the winter months, with Lerwick's being the largest with around eight or nine hundred guizers. The Lerwick Up-Helly-Aa is very much a male affair, whereas the country festivals, including Northmavine, welcome men and women.
The Hillswick and Eshaness Area Regeneration and Development Association website has some great pictures from previous Northmavine Up Helly Aas, and a list of recent Jarls - http://www.heard.shetland.co.uk/