Originally founded in 1970 and run as a school, the group was organised by teachers and parents of the district. Children would perform comedy acts to audiences in the school and local public hall as well as the Jarl squad (vikings). Come darkness, the children would form ranks from the school in Brae then march to the local bonfire location to send the said years Galley boat (Viking longship) on its way to Valhalla with an ablaze of fiery torches burning inside the boat. The night would then spill into the halls for squads to perform acts, spend time with loved ones, feast, drink, sing and dance the night away, which is still how the festival is run to this day.
In 1982 a group local enthusiasts gathered together with the intention to upgrade the festival’s size and include surrounding areas within the district of Delting, turning it into an adult festival which also included the children. This helped support the teachers and like many festivals, growing year by year meant a committee of volunteers were built to organise, plan and prepare the whole year round for the following years festival.
Nearly 40 years later, the current committee consists of around 18 members who dedicate many hours throughout the year to prepare for the event. The festival has established itself as a world wide phenomenon, with people travelling from far and wide to witness the spectacle!
This year will see the largest Jarl squad not only in Delting, but that Shetland has ever seen with 73 men, 5 boys and 5 princesses. The squad have been underway preparing suit designs since 2017 and started suit production in April this year. The 83 strong squad consists of members from Scotland, Ireland, Wales & England which is also a first for Delting having all 4 British nationalities in the same squad!