SERS Stories: Traditional music for community resilience: Shetland fieldwork

Waves crashing on 'the street' in Lerwick, ShetlandI I just returned from a life-changing five months in the Shetland Islands where I was doing field work for my PhD. My research explores the possibility of cultivating the authentic and place-bound culture of Celtic traditional music and dance, as a means to embed economic and social capital and to facilitate the development of more resilient rural communities.

The goal is to determine the current and potential role of Celtic traditional music and dance culture in building social and economic capital in place-bound communities that are subject to and increasingly exposed to market forces. To this end, I spent the winter in Shetland, immersed in the culture and interviewing musicians, business owners, policy makers, festival organizers, tourism and marketing professionals – basically anyone involved with the local arts scene, economic or community development, or local policy or governance.

Partly inspired by the darkness of winter (Shetland is north of the 60th parallel) and rhythm of the sea, the arts and music scene in Shetland is thriving and the sessions, country hall concerts, recitals, and open mics nights abound. Coupled with the generous and welcoming communities in Shetland, the number of events made my months of fieldwork so much fun!

Based out of the Elphinstone Institute at the University of Aberdeen and under the supervision of Dr. Frances Wilkins, my research in Shetland was funded by a Mitacs Globalink Research Award. Not only is this research from Shetland complementary to my work in central and eastern Canada, but the experience I had there, the people I met, and the beautiful and wild seascapes have left a lasting impression on me for which I am extremely grateful.