The History of Up Helly Aa
As Lerwick grew in size the celebrations became more elaborate. Sometime about 1840, the participants introduced burning tar barrels into the proceedings.
In the early days orders had to be conveyed by means of placards or proclamations at the Market Cross. This meant that the Guizers had to go there to find out where and when the festival would take place it was not always held on the last Tuesday of January as is the case today.
The first "Bill as we known it was produced in 1899, its primary purpose still being the conveyance of constructions. However, it was soon to be elaborated on by the addition of local jokes, satire, etc. and the bill head, painted each year by a local artist chosen by the Jarl. The painting usually depicts a scene from the Jarl's saga.
At 6 in the morning of Up Helly Aa Day, the "Bill" is erected at the Market Cross for the public to read and is removed before the procession at night.
There is a lot of anticipation as to who is going to be featured each year and in general everything is taken in good humor.
Since 1949, when the festival resumed after the war, much has changed and much has remained the same. That year the BBC recorded a major radio program on Up Helly Aa, and from that moment Up Helly Aa ....not noted for its split second timing before the war... became a model of efficient organization. The numbers participating in the festival have become much greater, and the resources required correspondingly larger.
Up Helly Aa is a community event, with countless volunteers contributing many ours each winter towards organizing and planning the following year's festival.
The Guizer Jarl (Leader of the squad) and his squad begin their preparations in February, and many long hours of hard work go into the design and productions of their outfits.
In early September the Guizers of the remaining 45 squads begin their squad meetings and preparations. This involves determining the character or characters that they wish to rotary with their suits, making the suits while also creating and practicing their act to perform in the halls they visit throughout the evening.
At the end of September the Galley shed is transformed back into a working shed where the Galley and the torches are constructed during the winter. During this same period the Committee checks the progress of the preparations including the Collecting Sheet and Bill.