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Ben Fogle


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#1 Tomblands

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 01:07 PM

From todays Shetland Times -

BEN FOGLE, the star of the BBC's hit series Castaway, has branded the organisers of last year's Up-Helly-A' unwelcoming and rude.

The celebrity's new book Offshore: In search of an island of my own chronicles his visits to a number of islands around the UK and abroad.

The chapter devoted to Shetland is mostly given over to Mr Fogle's experience of attending last year's Lerwick fire festival and the picture of Shetland that emerges makes for dismal reading.

Describing how he flew into Shetland along with journalists from around the world to cover Up-Helly-A', Mr Fogle tells how camera teams and reporters from Japan, Germany and Norway were told by Guizer Jarl Peter Fraser that "soothmoothers" weren't welcome anywhere near the procession or the burning site or the dance halls afterwards.

Mr Fogle writes: "In summary, we weren't allowed to go anywhere. Considering one-third of Shetland's 23,000 inhabitants are soothmoothers and fewer than half the population could lay claim to having three or more grandparents born here, the Viking's strict immigration policy seemed a little hard to stomach."

After an interview with an unnamed BBC Radio Shetland presenter ­ who Fogle said branded the Up Helly A' carnival as sexist, bigoted, racist, homophobic and xenophobic ­ Mr Fogle was eventually barred from attending any of the halls by the Up-Helly-A' committee.

He said: "I spent the rest of the evening sitting on a wall outside the hall listening to the frivolities. It was, to say the least, an anticlimax to the world's greatest fire festival.

"I didn't begrudge the islanders ­ after all, it was nothing to do with them ­ but I felt ostracised and humiliated as I left the town and headed back to my pencil bed.

"I would love to return to Shetland one day ­ on my own terms, that is, and not on those of a man in a cow-horned Viking hat ­ becuase you could spend several months here and still not visit every corner of interest or even every single island.

"I would be lying, however, if I said I was sad to leave Shetland on this occasion. It had been a depressing experience for me.

"I came to celebrate the islanders' remarkable culture for a couple of days only to be shunned, rejected and humiliated by the festival's organisers.

"I could understand the protectiveness the organisers felt towards their heritage and their festival, but why the reluctance to share it and parade it? Were they not proud of it?

"Of course one man does not necessarily speak for a whole people and I couldn't help wondering whether the Jarl's sentiments were just his personally held views or representative of a more general narrow-mindedness or even genuine xenophobia."

The media furore surrounding Mr Fraser's behaviour led the local tourist board to bar last year's Up-Helly-A' squad from attending a promotional events outside Shetland such as tourism shows.

The book also tells how Konnie Huq, the Blue Peter presenter, had fled Shetland in tears after a run in with the organisers of the previous year's Up-Helly-A'.

Mr Fogle also hits out at the overheated guesthouse he stayed at in Lerwick which is criticised for its garish décor and having beds "barely wide enough for a pencil".

Following weeks of adverse media coverage about last year's Up Helly A' Mr Fraser publicly apologised for his behaviour in a letter in The Shetland Times.

In the letter Mr Fraser said that health and safety issues meant that the number of journalists attending the burning had to be reduced last year.

He also claimed that the use of the term "soothmoothers" was not a derogatory phrase and apologised if his use of the word had caused offence.

He said: "Up-Helly-A' is bigger than all of us and will be around long after we are gone.

"I do regret that something I have said has soiled the name of a festival I hold dear."

In March this year former Jarl Peter Fraser was fined £200 at Lerwick Sheriff Court for committing a breach of the peace following a pub ruckus. His behaviour was described in court as childish.

Offshore: In search of an island of my own is published in hardback by Penguin books at £18.99.

Up-Helly-A 'more positive' in 2006

ANDY Steven, director of VisitShetland said of Ben Fogle's book: "The article is disappointing but reflects his experience whilst in the company of the 2005 guizer jarl, Mr Peter Fraser. I wish that Ben had been here this year when his experience would have been so much more positive and the world's media were properly catered for.

"The 2006 guizer jarl, Mr Mark Manson, was an excellent ambassador for Shetland"

Secretary of the Lerwick Up-Helly-A' committee Neil Robertson said: "Despite all the inaccuracies it is an entertaining read."

BBC Radio Shetland senior producer Caroline Moyes said: "It's difficult for me to respond in any detail as I haven't been provided with a copy of the article or the context in which the comment was allegedly made.

"However I would say that BBC Radio Shetland has always been, and will continue to be, a supporter of the Up-Helly-A' tradition both in the town and around the isles.

"I understand that Ben Fogle claims the comments came from a male presenter. If this was the case, it was a personal opinion and does not in any way represent the view of the station or the BBC."


Unfortunately, it tars Shetland with the same brush thanks to the few morons who still consider Up Helly Aa as a "Shetlanders only" festival.

The chapter in the book mentions that after being told he was banned, he decided to try and go to the hall anyway only to see a sign on the hall door saying "BANNED - BEN FOGLE - JOURNALIST". Quite pathetic really.

The Konnie Huq incident was news to me, I remember reading in the Times that there was going to be an UHA feature on Blue Peter so I decided to watch it only for them to show one that had been filmed at Sound School in the 80's. I guess the 2 are probably linked.

#2 Styles

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 02:04 PM

I think the Jarl that year dragged it down.

#3 Rasmie

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 02:27 PM

"Lerwick Up Helly Aa", appears to have changed from what was once almost an exclusive private club to a Shetland public entity. We always understood the reasons for controlling admittance to the burning ground and the halls in particular - but as squad members we felt there have always been over enthusiastic door keepers in a few places who seemed to take delight in inciting a bit of aggro. Maybe there should be a festival office - open all night where press for example could present their credentials and get some sort of Pass to permit entrance to the halls. This could also act as a customer service/information/complaints centre. A few years ago a couple of scruffy young reporters from a Lads Mag followed us about in our bus all night and presented a fairly even and positive report to its readers. Almost all the halls accepted their credentials and allowed them in.

#4 breeksy

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 02:30 PM

Indeed.

It is sad how one man, the man how should have been doing his utmost to make the festival be as amazing as possible for ALL involved, managed to spoil it for so many while also giving Shetland a bad name for hospitality - when IMO Shetland's hospitality to others is generally excellent.

The Birmingham Post was one thing, but this is altogether another.

#5 Sam

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 02:50 PM

this story comes out after a rather dificult year in the up hellly aa story it also shows that although it is a shetland thing for shetland people, the by standers can say anything they want regarding the festival.

it at the end of the day boils down to the coments of one man and not the community involved.

i think the news will be short lived but things do hhapen to go around and around and come back to haunt you later. i think when picking the uha comittie they should consider if the people are there for the right reasons and if they will be an asset or a hinderence.

#6 Jordan

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 03:23 PM

The committee should have issued a sincere apology a long time ago for the behaviour of that man. It is a real embarrassment. I myself think UHA is a pile of balls, in that it encourages underage drinking, adultery and aloholism, to name but a few. But I do realise that it is not all bad and important for the Shetland community and culture.

#7 Njugle

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 04:03 PM

The guizer jarl has a responsibility as a social leader, albeit for a year only. I think if the commitee want to salvage anything out of this disgrace he should still be made to apologise to Mr Fogle even now.

I've said this before on the other relevant thread, but how ignorant do you need to be to exclude scandinavians (amongst others) from a pseudo-viking fire festival.

I think the commitee should have a long hard look at themselves and the whole thing.

The country festival are booming.

That book will be read by tens of thousands of people and each and every one of them is going to think ill of shetland because of one individual, just when we are riding the wave of the fantastic Simon King becoming besotted with the place.

Get it sorted! :evil:

#8 Frances144

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 04:51 PM

I always thought BF was an squeeky clean poop tube. I was right!

Yes, Peter Fraser is a moomin, and he should never have said what he did. The committee tried to understate the situation and it has done alot of damage. I thought everything had calmed down and this year's Up Helly Aa was brilliant, but now this has raised its ugly head again and this time a lot more people will get to read it.

Pity, a great pity. Let's hope the book gets really bad reviews and ends up in the sales bin at Bookends!

F

#9 breeksy

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 05:18 PM

BF is an squeeky clean poop tube because he was treated really badly while he was here and then had the audacity to write it down?

"I didn't begrudge the islanders ­ after all, it was nothing to do with them ­ but I felt ostracised and humiliated as I left the town and headed back to my pencil bed.

"I would love to return to Shetland one day ­ on my own terms, that is, and not on those of a man in a cow-horned Viking hat ­ becuase you could spend several months here and still not visit every corner of interest or even every single island.

"I would be lying, however, if I said I was sad to leave Shetland on this occasion. It had been a depressing experience for me.

"I came to celebrate the islanders' remarkable culture for a couple of days only to be shunned, rejected and humiliated by the festival's organisers.


As far as I can tell, he is being pretty fair about his experience - which in case you missed it, was chronicled as part of a book about Island experiences, and not just Shetland. It certainly wasn't written to 'slag off shetland' - otherwise I am sure his comments would have been much more vitriolic.

#10 turrifield

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 09:57 PM

UHA is a farce and always has been, it's elitist, racist and sexist. It either belongs in a museum or should be turned into a corporate event like the Edinburgh Hogmanay has become.

#11 Heimdal

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 10:32 PM

Does it really matter :?:
Until I read the Times today, I had not heard of either Castaway or Ben Fogle so I am sure there must be many more in the same position.
I was reminded of Slim Jim's reference to former Times reporters as 'transient nonentities'.

#12 Njugle

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 10:47 PM

Until I read the Times today, I had not heard of either Castaway or Ben Fogle so I am sure there must be many more in the same position.


He is rather prolific at the moment, Presenting both Countryfile and Animal Park weekly, plus the Heaven and Earth Show, and a lot more, in fact sorry but have a look at this:
Ben Fogle on television

Like him or not (i'm not fussed about him really) he is widely known at the moment and will most likely sell a lot of books

#13 Ghostrider

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 12:17 AM

"Lerwick Up Helly Aa", appears to have changed from what was once almost an exclusive private club to a Shetland public entity.


Personally I'm of the opinion that the Jarl Squad getting in cahoots with the Tourist Office, and being presented as a tourist attraction, as an "image" of "Shetland", had much to do with that transition.

It's not all that many years ago that Up Helly Aa was most definitely the "Lerwick" Up Helly Aa, and not all of Lerwick gave two hoots about it either, at that time of least. I'd estimate on the night at least 25% of the population paid it not the slightest attention. Certainly, a few from outside Lerwick took part, and a few more went to spectate occasionally, but they were very much the exception rather than the rule, the vast majority, round here at least, let the event pass like it wasn't happening.

The only problem with making the Lerwick Up Helly Aa be seen as the image of "Shetland", is when the committee, in their "wisdom"?? choose someone like the 2005 Jarl to be the focal point of everything, and he behaves pretty much as some of us who've crossed paths with him in the past feared he would, every Shetland resident gets tarred with the same brush as him. Some of us, quite a lot of us in fact, perhaps surprisingly to some, really do not care for Up Helly Aa in any size shape or form, in Lerwick or anyplace else, and rather resent that an individual can be in a position to cause such damage and negative perceptions on people who have no part of say in the matter, on no other mandate than the nod of the, by then, ex-Jarls from the dozen or so years previous. To whom by then it really matters little as they've had their year of glory, and passed in to the realms of some sort of "elder statesmen" of the event.

If the Jarl simply represented the participants, like it used to be, fine and well, it's their image he's messing with, let them sort it, no-one else need be involved. Even if the Jarl was seen to reprsent only "Lerwick", fine and well, that's for Lerwick's population to deal with, but as it is, the Jarl is perceived as the "face" of all 23,000+ of us. If that is to continue to be the case, either the committee need to show beyond all reasonable doubt they take their role of appointing furture Jarls with adequate seriousness and responsibity, or some other way of appointing future Jarls will have to be found. As Njugle said, "Get it sorted!"

#14 trout

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 12:27 AM

Personally I'm of the opinion that the Jarl Squad getting in cahoots with the Tourist Office, and being presented as a tourist attraction, as an "image" of "Shetland", had much to do with that transition.


Having never previously had an opinion on this matter, when it's been discussed before on this forum and the myshetland.org too, I tie the above quote and the below ..

It either belongs in a museum or should be turned into a corporate event like the Edinburgh Hogmanay has become.


.. together and make an insight that perhaps with the aim of those attempting to create a "tourism" industry in Shetland for the future take heed in what Edinburgh did and now does VERY successfully in not only Hogmanay, but all of its festivals throughout the year!

Perhaps using that accumen to market Shetland moving forward would be key, rather as people appear to express - an insular "Shetland" only festival marketed potentially incorrectly - "for all".

I add that I've not had involvement in UHA since being a fiddlebox carrier in the Lerwick UHA many years ago .. and these thoughts might already be how things are planned.... and or are in action already.

#15 pepe

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 09:11 AM

I think most people who know of Ben Fogle and have seen him in action on TV are of the univeral opinion that he is a twat! He's a typical posh boy who made his name starring in a reality TV show and now wants to be taken seriously. I watched him presenting crufts and it was cringeworthy. Anyway, I think Peter Fraser said a few silly things which were picked up on and an unecessary drama created. I love Up Helly Aa and I think people should enjoy it for what it is and stop taking it all so seriously. I have witnessed occasions at the Up Helly Aa procession where the press have been barging in front of spectators and walking in the middle of a group of men with torches with a huge furry microphone - very dangerous. Maybe this is why Peter Fraser made these comments.