The tradition of Up Helly Aa has been alive in Bressay since the early 1930s, although the festival hasn’t run annually since then.
The first festival was held in 1930. Only a few details are known about it: the first galley was constructed at a fish processing factory, and consisted of a painted Shetland Model, with a tail and head added.
Festivals were held for the following four years. The procession lit up and started out from the Tae Well (Roadside) and later from the Eunsons. It consisted of about 70-90 participants, both male and female. They all walked single file along past the Shop, Hall and School. The burning of the galley took place North-by the Old Manse on a vacant piece of ground loaned from Hoversta Farm except in 1933 when the burning took place at Hunchiebanks.
About seven or eight squads entertained at the hall, and as today their acts could be colourful costumes, dances or some local skit. Dancing usually went on until around 6am. Teas were provided in the hall by the Ladies Committee and the cost of a ticket to Bressay Up Helly Aa in the 1930’s would have been in the regions of 2/6.
Unfortunately there were no further festivals after 1934 as the hall which at that time was a Kirk Hall which was was not allowed to be used for the purpose.
Luckily the festival was re-established in 1962, after a public meeting was held the previous year to gauge interest and Bressay Up Helly Aa has been held annually ever since! Up Helly Aa in Bressay is due to take place on February 28 2020 lead by James Anderson with the traditional procession.