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FORMER Labour trade minister Brian Wilson will share a platform with local MSP Tavish Scott tomorrow night to take questions on the Scottish independence referendum.
The Better Together campaigner will also meet local businesses before staging a Q&A session with members of the public.
Growing up in a family and community full of story-tellers inspired Steven Robertson to take up acting. Back in the isles as one of the guests of honour at the Screenplay film festival he tells ADAM GUEST why that grounding was so important and why playing a Shetland policeman was such an enjoyable role.
“I’ve always liked telling stories,” says Lunnasting lad Steven Robertson.
The TV and film star known by many as Sandy Wilson from BBC crime drama Shetland, was speaking at a question and answer session after the screening of the 2004 film Inside I’m Dancing on Saturday night.
The Shetland “boy-done-good” plays the role of Michael Connolly a 24-year-old with cerebral palsy and a long-term resident of the Carrigmore Residential Home for the Disabled.
After meeting the rebellious Rory O’Shea (James McAvoy) who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Michael discovers a new lease of life, one with greater independence, love and laughter outside of Carrigmore.
It’s powerful stuff – following the wheelchair-bound characters and challenging the viewer’s perception of disability, with awkward viewing at times – as prejudices unfold on screen.
But there’s interjections of comedy and “laugh-out-loud” moments too.
Robertson’s performance is captivating, moving and questions the viewer throughout.
Speaking to The Shetland Times, he explained the detail that went in to the film, from his own in-depth research of cerebral palsy and independent living, to the difficulty Michael has in brushing his teeth, using a pay card in a public telephone rather than coins, and even how the film was shot.
The film is recorded in anamorphic widescreen, “which nobody notices, which I think is kind of brilliant,” he said.
“One of the whole things about the film is to try and get the chair to disappear and for people to see the people more, and stop looking at the chair,” he said.
“And actually that simple thought … to make the screen lower and wider, it suddenly becomes less of an issue that you have got two chaps sat down, it opens up the frame.”
Inside I’m Dancing was Robertson’s first acting role on the silver screen and he admitted it was “a bit weird” watching the film with the audience 10 years on.
The former Anderson High School pupil spoke about his interest in storytelling and how that sparked his acting career – telling stories at concerts and enjoying the stories in country music.
According to one colleague in The Shetland Times newsroom, Robertson can do a mean Elvis impersonation too.
Robertson said he learnt many stories from the late Shetland poet Rhoda Bulter, who spent a lot of her summers on a croft owned by Robertson’s family.
“She just used to tell me old Shetland stories and a lot of them are based in Vidlin,” he said.
“I learnt to remember the details and then by telling the stories that’s how you either remember the gaps or fill in the gaps.”
His English teacher George P.S. Peterson used to tell him stories too, as did his uncle Willie and his grandad – often telling trow tales.
“Just to have great storytellers in your family, even if it’s just a long joke, it doesn’t matter, it still has a narrative and it’s still going somewhere. Shetland has got lots of that,” he said.
“They used to muse a whole evening away with telling stories or reminiscing or whatever, and that had a huge amount to do with me getting into this [acting]. Because that’s what’s interesting about it [acting] everything else is bells and whistles.”
Robertson has most recently been seen as Sandy Wilson in Shetland. It was originally a two-part pilot of Ann Cleeves’ Red Bones, and Robertson said he really wanted the part when he auditioned.
“It’s an extraordinary thing that such a proper number one, nine o’clock, BBC One show, would be shot for the vast majority of the exteriors, this far away from any major or even passable studio,” he said.
“I mean it is a proper show. People can love it or hate it that’s entirely up to them.
“But it’s got quality written all over it and I thought … as a working Shetland actor… why the hell wouldn’t I be in it? I’d’ve been gutted if I didn’t get the part.”
Steven Robertson as PC Sandy Wilson during the filming of the pilot episode of the Shetland television drama.
And as a local lad Robertson said he takes a lot of pride in the role.
“One of the things I’m proudest of with the part of Sandy and one of things I liked most about the role, both in the pilot and if I’ve influenced this in any regard throughout the series as well, is that he’s a normal person,” he said.
“I like the extreme parts and I get a lot out of them but I like a mix,” he added.
The Screenplay festival continues this week and Robertson agreed it was an important thing for Shetland and hailed the venue at Mareel.
Earlier on Saturday he went to the screening of Ebb Tide – a collection of six short films by Shetland film-makers inspired by an artefact or story with a link to a Commonwealth country and Shetland.
He said the technical elements of the films were great and predicted the likes of CGI would become a mainstay of film-making in future.
“I’ve being doing film and television professionally for only 10 years, but I already feel like I come from a different era,” he said.
“When I started out, whenever they sent you a script, mine would come around on a motorcycle and they would hand you the script. Now everything is just emailed to you.”
“I already feel like a dinosaur,” he joked.
• Robertson’s appearance in First World War tale Joyeux Nöel, depicting the story of the Christmas truce, is also shown on Thursday as part of Screenplay.
A man has been sentenced at Lerwick Sheriff Court to over four years in prison after he admitted supplying heroin.
Barlinnie prisoner James Kennedy, 29, of Maybole in Ayrshire was sentenced to 50 months when he admitted pushing the Class A drug in the isles at an address in Lerwick’s Hill Grind on 15th May.
Co-accused Greg Lawrie, 25, also of Maybole was meanwhile handed a 30-month prison term by sheriff Philip Mann.
The two had been due to stand trial before jury, but admitted the charge on the indictment.
The men were arrested after police acted on intelligence and carried out a search of the address.
Lawrie was found to be concealing 70 grammes of heroin worth £7,000 at street level.
Subsequent police inquiries focused on mobile phones seized from the address where the duo were found.
Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said the two have no connection with the isles.
“This was an intelligence-led police operation. Police officers executed a search warrant under the terms of the Misuse of Drugs Act, having received intelligence about a householder,” he told the court.
“It soon became clear they were taking these drugs to Shetland for distribution in the isles.”
Defence agent for Lawrie, Tommy Allan, said the cocaine user became involved in the offence to “clear up” a debt he owed to various people.
He added Lawrie, a greenkeeper, had done “what was asked of him” and did not personally profit from the enterprise.
“He says he has never been a heroin user. He accepts the drugs were found on him, but says his role in this was a fairly minor one.”
Meanwhile defence solicitor Philip McWilliams said Kennedy’s experience “mirrored” to some extent those of Lawrie’s.
Kennedy, he said, had suffered difficulty with his heroin use.
He was already serving an eight month prison term after being sentenced at Ayr Sheriff Court in June on drugs charges.
Sheriff Mann told Kennedy his “extensive record” meant he was considering imposing the maximum penalty of five years in prison. However, he allowed him a discount of 10 months to reflect the plea.
He warned Lawrie his case could not be regarded as exceptional.
“I’ve said many times in this court anyone convicted of drug trafficking can expect a custodial sentence unless there are exceptional circumstances. There are no exceptional circumstances in this case and there is an inevitable disposal of a custodial sentence.”
The sentences are backdated to 19th May – the date when Kennedy and Lawrie were first taken into custody.
After the hearing Shetland area commander Eddie Graham said: “We all have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable people in society and as such we as a community will not tolerate those that seek to profit from the drugs trade.
“With the support of the public and with access to the wider resources through Police Scotland we will continue to disrupt and target criminals that traffic drugs to Shetland. Furthermore I would again remind the public that we rely on your support and information to disrupt the supply of drugs and arrest those responsible.”
TWO AYRSHIRE men who admitted bringing thousands of pounds worth of heroin into Shetland earlier this year were given lengthy jail sentences when they appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Monday morning.
James Kennedy, 29, was jailed for four years and two months, while 25 year old Greg Lawrie, was given two years and six months. Both gave addresses in Maybole, Ayrshire.
It was a packed Garrison that welcomed “Ireland’s number one country singer”, Mick Flavin and his band, ably supported by Caithness’s own Manson Grant and the Dynamos for a matinee show.
It seemed the combination of two high profile bands rather than solo acts or duos had brought Shetland’s Country Music fans out in force even on a pleasant Sunday afternoon.
Flavin has been on the road for 27 years and music has taken him places and meant he has met people he would never have had the opportunity to do otherwise.
I managed to chat to Flavin in the dressing room before hand when he spoke of growing up in a farming background in Longford, Southern Ireland.
One of his tasks as a child was to fetch the water from the well when he would use the bucket on top of his head to amplify his singing. His father was an exponent of the Sean-nós tradition of unaccompanied singing but Flavin’s first love was country music – Hank Williams, Tex Ritter and Charley Pride, among his favourites.
He has sung at the Grand Ole Orphy in Nashville, Tennessee, to audiences of 4,000. But his biggest audiences, I remind him, were probably in The big Austrialian Country Music festival.
Flavin is quite open about the problem he had with drink many years ago which left him needing hospital treatment several times. He hasn’t had a drink for 28 years.
Both his sons were born profoundly deaf and he has seen modern technology benefit their lives, and has had time to appreciate his grand children who have thankfully no such problems. He’s a very down-to-earth character, as he comes across on stage, and we have a good craic. He certainly doesn’t look or act like a 64-year-old.
A little while later I find myself sitting in the stalls next to, Jimmy Amooty and his wife (he tells me the name’s origins are from Auchtermuchty in Fife). He worked with Flavin as a “chippy’s mate” when he was employed as a carpenter before turning professional.
He lives two-and-a-half miles from Mick in Ireland and was even in Shetland last time Mick played. “Are you a big fan then?” I ask him. “No I just know him!” Is his jokey reply.
First on are a red jacketed Manson Grant and the Dynamos, no strangers to Shetland at one time. Manson confesses its 25 years since they were last here – and he had hair. The trio have taken under their wing a young wizard of an accordionist Brandon McPhee who did some amazing fingerwork on The Dark Island and the Bluebell Polka.
During the polka, the rows of seats of the Garisson were rocking, as his fingers at times were a blur with movement. The band had a tight sound and a set full of crowd pleasers well embellished with three part harmonies.
Now for Flavin who was very magnanimous to Manson and Co.
There’s a good selection of songs from an obviously a seasoned group of musicians with a slick delivery. I couldn’t but help noticing the hole worn away on Mick’s guitar just below the aperture by his plectrum, that’s a lot of strumming.
There’s not too much sentimentality to the songs, and some nice lines “as he walked the straight and narrow, he collided with her heart”. There’s the obligatory Galway Girl and various members of the band are highlighted I particularly liked the drummer singing The Best Part of the Day is the Night, when the band is swinging.
Flavin has a rich voice with quite deep resonance which is delivered with genuine emotion, he went down very well with all present and folk had indeed been “travlin’ to Flavin”.
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