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Mirrie Dancers, Shetland, 2009 - 2012


Mirrie Dancers was a community based project that used light as a medium for community engagement and public art. I conceived the project with artist Nayan Kulkarni in response to a commission from Shetland Arts Development Agency to create public artwork for Mareel, its new music, cinema and education centre.

There were two parts to the project. The first part, Mirrie Light, comprised 32 public and ten schools workshops -
Light Labs - with over 300 participants taking part. Participants produced nearly 500 films which became part of temporary light installations for their local area, and which were installed throughout the autumn and winter 2009-10.  At each Light Lab participants were loaned a flip camera in order to film colour. We taught them  how to edit their film using Mac laptops and then demonstrated what their film would look like when transformed into a dynamic colour show by processing it through Pharos software. The illuminations were sited in ten locations, all of which were selected through an extensive site selection process involving members of eight different communities.  In 2012 the films were launched as exterior illuminations when construction work for Mareel was complete. There are 30 different programmes made from the films that were produced by participants which run on consecutive nights from sundown. They form a permanent legacy of the  project.  Initially the Mirrie Dancers web site credited each programme so that participants could see when their work could be viewed, but unfortunately the web site no longer exists.  I hope to add that information here in due course.

The second part of the project, Mirrie Lace, involved 23 Shetland lace knitters who worked with us initially over twelve months to develop hand knit lace for permanent interior light installations in Mareel. The knitters experimented with different materials, producing just over 150 individual pieces, 10 cm diameter.  The project culminated in 2012 when we installed 17 permanent light installations at Mareel.  The installations are located throughout the building, appearing in sequence so that there is never any one time when all 17 are visible simultaneously.  In 2010 there we staged the exhibition, Mirrie Lace, at Bonhoga Gallery where we installed 18 light projections of lace hand knitted by 18 knitters. 

The knitters whose work is installed at Mareel include: Kathleen Anderson, Anne Eunson, Bab Fraser, Verinia Fraser, Catherine A Gibb, Janette Henry, Angela Irvine, Elizabeth Johnston, Joan Manson, Minnie Mouatt, Barbara Ridland, Helen Robertson, Jan Sawford, Christine Smith, Jessica Smith, Zena Thompson, Gwen Williamson. Knitters who also took part in the project included Laura Friedlander (also exhibited in the Mirrie Lace exhibition at Bonhoga), Ina Irvine and Wilma Johnson.

You can read more about the project in the articles which you can download below. I've written,, ‘What’s the point of short-term? What is the legacy of non-permanence? ‘(PAR+RS Public Art Scotland, 10/2010) and 'Mirrie Dancers: Light and Lace in Shetland' which was published in the book COOL: Applied Visual Arts in the North (p 88).   You can also find a little bit about Mirrie Lace in Shetland Textiles: 800BC to the Present by Abrams L., Chapman R, Christiansen C, Ciszuk M, Dearlove, S, Hammarlund L, Johnston E, Laurenson S, Smith B., (Shetland Heritage Publications) 2013.

The project was funded by the Creative Scotland Inspire Fund, the Leader Programme and the Esmée Fairbairn Trust. 







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