Don't Stop Me Now - Up Helly Aa 2023

Hit's been a miss. They last visited in 2020, last Tuesday in January as always, and just before the deluge. That last Tuesday in 2021 and 2022 came and went, lockdowns, social distancing, and vaccinations not quite effective enough for an event Up Helly Aa is. Neil Moncrieff had to wait another two years for his time as Guizer Jarl.

Our Januarys had a hole in them too. The Jarl’s visit to the Museum and Archives is a particularly buoyant event, with a well-filled foyer, and visitors from all over. We’d changed things for 2023. For all the previous years people could walk in for the Jarl’s squad afternoon visit, which led to a closely packed crowd of people. Good natured and friendly but still tightly squashed. This year we limited numbers and issued free tickets. They were gone in an afternoon.

The guizers were due for 3.30pm and were only a little bit late - it’s difficult to keep a Jarl squad to time. They sang their songs, the Up Helly Aa Song, naturally, and one or two more. They sang Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now – no stopping until well into Wednesday morning, and if a long wait makes for a good time it must have been a very good one indeed. Freddie Mercury would surely have approved.

Then the guizers met people. There were selfies, lots of them. Helmets, shields, and axes – splendidly decorated this year – got borrowed for more photographs. If the Jarl is one iconic image of Up Helly Aa, then another surely is a laughing girl wearing a helmet a couple of inches too wide. The foyer filled with a warm vibe.

And then they were gone, with a stop for a torch-lit TV interview. The weather held for everything else – a yellow meteorological warning had been withdrawn. The procession took place along crowded streets among a small storm of wind-blown sparks. The galley burned well, and the guizers dispersed to the halls – Don't stop me/'Cause I'm having a good time

See you next year, 30 January, same time, same place.

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