Fuel for the Fire: Tradition and the gender controversy in Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa
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Johnson, K. (2019) Fuel for the Fire: Tradition and the gender controversy in Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa. Scottish Affairs, 28(4), pp. 459-474.
Shetland’s world-famous Viking-themed Up Helly Aa fire festival is a distinctive celebration of community and heritage. Recently media attention and local debate has begun to focus on an ongoing controversy surrounding the exclusion of women and girls from participating in certain roles in the town of Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa event. This paper provides some insight into the developing situation and critically examines the claims of heritage and tradition in the face of accusations of locally sanctioned discrimination. With input from members of the grassroots organisation Up Helly Aa for Aa, who campaign for gender equality in the festival (and which the lead author is a member of), the opportunity is taken to provide the perspective of those challenging the status quo.