Sunday, 28 February 2010

Wind Chill

It was very cold throughout the entire process of installation at the Auld Chapel, Longfield, our last site, and last night we really felt it. Nayan reclined in the snow to upload the programme for the illumination; I spent a long time in the -15º C, just standing and watching, studying our first trial as I have always enjoyed doing at each install. Richard and Mike finished up with the cabling and power.

Richard's snow angel sums up our feeling of relief and satisfaction at what we've achieved. Nayan and I drove around the area, to check the 360º visibility for the site; I'm pleased with how it looks from a distance, although it is very different from the close-up view. There's a couple really good viewing points where it rises above you, so you can't see the bright points of the lights. We're not sure of the finish date for this site...Nayan suggested it is kept long enough to become a landmark, then we take it down! How long is that?!! (I think the illumination became a local landmark at some of our other sites based on feedback).

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Snow - Not Mud!

Yesterday we got this last installation well under way at our final site - the Auld Chapel at Longfield, Dunrossness. I am so happy that the team got the turbines close enough to the site so that we could go ahead...with huge, huge thanks to our local tractor driver! I am glad we're going to the South Mainland again as the P7 pupils at Dunrossness Primary School made very carefully considered films about colour. Their art teacher, Fiona Burra, also worked very hard to organise the day and learn how to use the software programme. Richard, Mike and Emma might have got cold yesterday, but I am sure it was probably a lot better than the mud from our last install! After Nayan was happy with the placement of the lights, he and I began testing ideas for this illumination last night despite the ice and snow troubling our cars. I am looking forward to another good day to finish up the series of illuminations. This one feels like a fitting 'grand finale', although I am of course sorry we didn't get to do three of our original choices.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Fingers Crossed for Last Install

Yesterday many of our team were snowbound. Nonetheless Michael and Nayan made it down to Longfield in a 4x4 to see if it would be possible to install following the new snowfall and drifting. Where Nayan and I were walking in ankle deep snow on Wednesday night, they were apparently struggling with up to waist deep! But I am so excited and grateful, because they have got a solution, with Plans A, B and C lined up for getting the wind turbines in place maybe we'll see a tractor yet! Yesterday the neighbours were also so helpful with welcome chat and cups of tea. I am at the moment really looking forward to this one last temporary illumination!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Lunna and Longfield

We've been trying to work out where we can do our final illuminations. I can't believe how unlucky we have been with weather this winter, which has badly effected the entire second half of our programme. We've only been able to illuminate two out of five original choices! We've also had to begin considering sites that weren't even part of our shortlist of thirty two. On Tuesday night I thus drove in rather poor conditiions to Fladdabister and Hay's Dock in Lerwick to check out sites.

We had a long meeting Wednesday morning at Shetland Arts and came up with two first choices that I like very much - Lunna and the Auld Chapel at Longfield. After Nayan checked and tested all the lights and controls were dry and working, we met Mike and Richard in Lunna to decide which structures might be possible to illuminate there, where I took this photo. Then last night Nayan and I drove south to Dunrossness to check out the conditions at our other first choice, the Auld Chapel at Longfield, which I have always loved. I was very happy that we were able to talk to the nearest neighbours, who are really very close to the site. We really appreciate their blessing, as, of course, we do that of the land and property owners, too.

We decided we'd like to illuminate this former lime burning kiln and the dry stane dyke in Lunna. The area has so many interesting buildings, it was difficult to choose. Practicalities ruled in the end! I like the fact that the landscape and its structure reveal so much of Shetland's history, including the Shetland Bus during the Second World War. Apparently the whole area is listed as Category C by Historic Scotland.

The sky changed colour over the time we were looking around Lunna, and by the time we were ready to leave, the colours literally stopped us in our tracks as we stood to watch it transform before our eyes.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Snow again!

Nayan arrived last night, and we're prepared to begin the installation for our final illuminations. We also were supposed to have lots of meetings today and a Lace Lab was scheduled for this evening. So far we've had to cancel everything! I just managed to catch a final thirty minutes of our illumination at Easthouse last night in the snow, and I couldn't resist a quick low res film of pink snow....then I must admit had a bit of difficulty getting home in what became full blown whiteout. Fortunately it wasn't far and I know the road really well. Now it's a waiting game....not sure what we'll be able to achieve over this week in the face of today's delays!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Stanley Ross Smith

I was very saddened by the news that Stanley Ross Smith died last week. He, along with his wife, June, was a supporter of Mirrie Dancers. In fact Stanley was our oldest participant, aged 90 years young! He and June came along to our first mini-bus tour, which happened to be on the West Side, where they would go swimming in Aith. They came along to the Light Lab in Waas, and Stanley's film was included in our illumination at Reawick Congregational Church. Sadly he wasn't well enough to attend any of our parties to celebrate the illuminations. I will always remember Stanley's wit, charm and incisive insight across a huge range of subjects. He was a practising architect, a lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art and a lovely painter. I first met him in our evening class, Art Now, to which he contributed his impressive knowledge with good humour, enthusiasm and a warm twinkle in his eye. During our Mirrie Dancers mini-bus tour Stanley revealed a particular interest in Park Hall, I believe, for its particular use of concrete. He specially requested copies of our photos of the building, which I happily sent along. Like many others who knew him, I will miss him very much. This photo was taken by Malcolm Younger during our Site Selection Mini-Bus Tour.

Monday, 15 February 2010


I am beginning to wonder about our luck. Today I was scheduled to give a talk at Hamnavoe Primary Schoo since our illuminations are currently in Burra. Some of the pupils can see the illumination from their homes, and some made films this summer in the Light Labs. Imagine my surprise when I arrived to find fire engines and police, then two journalists with a big microphone scuttling over to the school. There was a fire in the school, and all pupils and staff were evacuated! I was surprised but disappointed, as I love my visits to the schools. Last Friday I went to Dunrossness Primary where I worked with the P7 pupils who made wonderful films for our last set of illuminations.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

A Painterly Response

We've been trying to document and collect responses to our temporary illuminations through photography, film and writing. Last night one of the guests at our party, Paul Bloomer, used his iPod to make some electronic drawings. He's thinking he's going to use them to work into paintings.

Local Responses

Some local friends are finding the illumination at the Haa a bit spooky, for it looks like people are in the house, especially upstairs. It's bringing to mind the fact that their relatives used to live in the Haa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries! A neighbour to Easthouse told me how she'd seen the illumination of the croft house in early evening; it looked like glass. She wanted to get her camera, but she realised she'd probably never be able to get that impression on film. Austin Taylor took this photo.

Party Time

Last night we had our first party to celebrate the illuminations since December. We've been very unlucky with bad weather since the new year, and we've had to cancel every party! I enjoyed myself very much last night - at least once I got there! My car battery died at the Haa while I was using its lights to help me see while I was making some last minute tweaks (my perfectionist streak kicked in again). Thanks to neighbours and friends, I made the party, and I was only a little late! It was wonderful to see folk enjoying themselves, playing in the lights and talking about the illuminations. This photo was taken by Fiona Burr. I am very proud of the sharp shadow. Nayan and Duncan have worked very hard to perfect the optics in the lights. Otherwise, because each of our lights has thirty six individual LED lights inside, we could have 36 shadows!

Big Learning Curve

Last night we finally got the illumination tweaked to my satisfaction. It's been a long week, for we've once again had no wind, that's meant we've had to closely monitor the wind turbine at the Haa. We're using the mains at the old croft house, but that's also not been without issues. Like many things, it turns out we had a little fuse switch that ran the socket for our illumination...... I've also learned more about our light programme, Pharos, this week. I feel more confident as for the first time I've uploaded the revised programmes that Nayan has emailed as well as downloading the Log. I am enjoying being able to read what is happening with our illumination.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


I should have known we would have more work to do following completion of our double illumination on Burra! Sunday night the programme ran perfectly. Monday night both sites were static, the Aald Haa was green and Easthouse was white. I wasn't home most of the night. I also learned that the flashing morse code was distracting to some homes. So today we've set out to try to fix everything. Unfortunately more frustration! The Aald Haa didn't illuminate at all and at Easthouse only the videos ran all night. Despite the fact that it looked really good, it's not what should happen! We had no wind on Sunday or Monday, so that's why the Haa didn't illuminate. We're running the lights off the mains at Easthouse as there was nowhere level for the turbine. So the lack of wind hasn't effected that site. I emailed the show files to Nayan and Martin, and tonight Nayan has cracked the problem, so we'll try again tomorrow. This photo was taken by Austin Taylor.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Curious Visitors

I love it when people drive along to see the illumination, especially when they are excited about it. Krista got her neighbour to drive her down to have a look and find out what was going on at Easthouse last night. She can see it from her house in Papil! A few houses in Papil can see both illuminations simultaneously. Another friend has told me lots of cars are driving by tonight and some are stopping to take photos, too. It's so nice to get feedback. When you work outside the gallery it's harder to find out who is coming to look and what they think.

Mirrie Dancers Comes to Burra

We've given a little Mirrie Dancers surprise illumination to folk living in the South End of Burra Isle! Thanks to everyone who worked their socks off to complete in one day what we usually do in five, we have new illuminations completed before Martin and Sharon fly home on Sunday.

Our guest lighting designers have translated their idea for an illumination at the former listening post (as originally planned) to two buildings in Burra - Easthouse, an old crofthouse which the Burra History Group has purchased and restored, and the old Haa, the derelict Laird's house that lies directly opposite in Houss, East Burra. These buildings are "speaking" to each other now in a way I imagine they never would have done in the past. One light in their window pulses morse code, a poem written by James Sinclair, Under Northern Skies.

Old and New

A day of tight teamwork and commitment above and beyond etc etc! Martin programmed two illuminations in one day.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Mud Team

We've had to pack up at Garths Ness....found out about 3.30 pm Friday afternoon that our lights were distracting to the pilots landing at Sumburgh Airport. So we agreed that we'd move to another site rather than change the plan. Folk have been very wonderful and after hours on the phone, I've managed to get permissions for two new sites in Burra. So we have these two to complete in one day as Martin and Sharon leave on Sunday!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Raising the Lights

Today we were on site at the former Listening Station from lunchtime onwards. Martin and Sharon wanted to try putting some lights on top of the building in order to illuminate the tower. So they invented a rather novel way of getting the cables up by using my snow shovel! I'll post a photo tomorrow.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Guerrilla Lighting meets Mirrie Dancers

Our guest lighting designers, Martin Lupton and Sharon Stammers, on our site visit yesterday! We needed a 4x4 to get there. I am really looking forward to seeing their approach and learning more about lighting design from them. You can find out more about their work on - and follow their experience of Mirrie Dancers on Twitter -

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Back again to the former Listening Post!

It seems we've no sooner finished an illumination than we're back again. Time passes so quickly. The difference this time is that we are returning to the same site! We've not been able to access the crofts at Snarravoe due to 50 metres of deep boggy land. So we have decided to return to Garths Ness and do another illumination before trying to access Snarravoe in a few weeks. One very good reason for doing another illumination in the same place is that we have guest lighting designers, Martin Lupton and Sharon Stammers, who've just arrived today to work with us!