Lisa Ward is a Shetland girl through and through. She went to primary school in Hamnavoe and formed an interest in music there. That passion to be a singer songwriter has stayed with her all her life. A horrendous injury whilst exercising resulted in a broken back and saw her laid up for sixteen weeks, with time to think and write songs. Her recently recorded album “27”, with her XYY band, was launched at a gig in the Legion on 1st April. She is back living in Hamnavoe now and Jeff Merrifield caught up with her in her new house.
People have asked about the title of the opening song on the new album 27 Slices of Pi. It actually came from a joke I made to Craig Birnie (my partner and bass player in the band) just after I broke my back. I was extremely lucky as the CT and X-ray showed that the break was stable and the spinal cord safe – no surgery required – but I was in a hospital bed for several days while they made me a back brace, then when the brace was fitted there were lots of limited yet painful movements to get the blood flowing and optimise the healing.
Basically, I was 27 at the time it happened and I wanted to make light of the situation a bit, so I said to Craig, “Well I’m clearly not rock and roll enough for the 27 Club, but the universe took a little swipe, so I must at least have a bit of rock and roll in me!” This was a reference to the famous ‘27 Club’ of rock stars who sadly died at that age. It got me thinking about the number 27. I’m a bit of a numbers person and a big believer in the idea that mathematics is the language used by the universe to tell us about itself. As I was recovering, I did a fair bit musing on the beauty of mathematical constants and got to thinking about Pi, then I started contemplating how people talk of ‘wanting their slice of the pie’, which led to a myriad of cultural meanings behind pies and thoughts of Pi as a good metaphor for the universe or life itself. So, in combination with the idea of getting your ‘slice of the pie’, my 27 slices of Pi is the 27 years I’d been lucky enough to get to so far. 27 Slices of Pi is kind of a celebration.
XYY band has been together a couple of years. We put an earlier EP out of my own songs, as I didn’t want to be defined by twenty seconds of a cover version in The Voice. The process of being on that programme was interesting. Some BBC agents came to Shetland to listen to a few singers. I was one of a small group of singer-songwriters. I was asked to go to Glasgow for others to hear me, but I said I couldn’t afford the fare. But soon after, one of my doggies had something wrong with her and had to go to a special hospital in Glasgow. I got in touch with The Voice people and they arranged an audition while I was there. Some further time later, I had to go to London for another audition, but that time expenses were met. So, it was a long-ish journey, but I made the programme. I picked Tom Jones to work with and he turned out to be a really nice, level-headed person, for someone who has worked in a crazy industry as long as he has. He was very helpful to me, very relaxed and chilled, balanced.
What tracks did Lisa choose? You’ll need to buy the magazine to find out!
Anderson High pupil Holly Mouat reflects on a life changing school trip. For the full story and more photographs, see this month’s Shetland Life.
On 11th April 1917, the Battle of Arras began. Arras is described as “The Scottish Battle”. Of the four years the Great War raged on the largest Scottish loss was at the Battle of Arras.
To mark the centenary of the battle, the Scottish Government organised a trip for two school children aged 14-15 (secondary 3), from every local authority in Scotland to commemorate the lives of those lost. Carys and I were fortunate to be chosen to represent Shetland. I have a keen interest in history and am particularly interested in World War 1. I’m so grateful to the Scottish government for the opportunity, and to Mr Sandison especially for accompanying us and looking after us.
My great-great grandfather, Andrew Duncan Arthur, died in the first world war. My great-great uncle Stanley Anderson also lost his life in the same conflict. I felt that I was chosen to represent Shetland and represent them. It meant a lot to me to know that Andrew and Stanley, amongst many other soldiers, should not be forgotten.
Following a flight from Sumburgh to Edinburgh on Thursday 6th April 2017, an overnight stay at a hotel, a coach trip to Kingston upon Hull and an overnight trip on a ferry, we arrived in Zeebrugge, Belgium on Saturday 8th April 2017. It was my first trip abroad and I must say that it was a great deal warmer than Shetland!
On the day we arrived in Belgium, we headed straight for France and saw the first cemeteries. The cemetery that stood out to me was one where a father and son lay side by side, killed on the same day. Also, the grave of the oldest soldier killed in the Great War, aged 67 years and the grave of a young New Zealander who was court martialled and shot for cowardice. These were only a few people laid to rest in a small roadside cemetery, which really just shows how every soldier has a story, sung or unsung.
Over the years, the local press has devoted a fair amount of column inches to Bressay’s woes: first there was the bridge debate, and the subsequent division among the community; then there was the gradual, painful demise of the local school, the closure of the Northern Lights Holistic Spa, and Maryfield House Hotel. News of these issues have wafted over the water from time to time: they say that bad news travels fast, after all.
Battered but not broken, Bressay has picked itself up, dusted itself down and is making a positive effort to bring a feeling of unity and shared purpose back into the community.
This month we spoke to Hazel Anderson, chair of the Development Association in Bressay, about some of the positive changes afoot. We also have some stunning photographs of Bressay life by this month’s featured photographer, Austin Taylor.
“May you live in interesting times”. This old Chinese curse might have sounded more like a blessing to our ears until recently (when times really did start to get a bit more interesting).
We certainly are living through interesting times on a global, national and local scale. And however cursed we may feel due to the incompetency of certain politicians, the uncertainty of our economic future and the cuts to public services, we can reassure ourselves that things will surely get better eventually (although I think they will probably need to get quite a lot worse first). In the meantime, at least we’ll have plenty to talk about.
On that cheery note, I’d like to say congratulations to all our newly elected councillors and wish you all the very best in your new posts. It’s certainly not an easy job you’ve chosen, but I hope it will be a rewarding one.
To reflect all the current political goings-on, this month’s Shetland Life is taking a look at some of our big issues. First up, we visited Bressay to find out how the local community are dealing with some of their issues (depopulation, an aging population, school closure etc.). It was inspiring to hear how the community has come together to take positive action. And if you haven’t yet visited the Speldiburn Café, then I suggest you do.
At a recent Althing debate, the motion “The time is right for Shetland autonomy” was resoundingly defeated. But perhaps the idea is not so far-fetched after all. Alex Garrick-Wright got into his time machine and travelled to The Shetland Times Office in 2022, where he unearthed future copies of this magazine and read about Shetland’s surprising rejoining with Norway. It sounds as the results of the Shetland/Norway referendum are being hotly disputed in the press five years from now – seems like nothing changes.