This film is part of Free

Old Norse Vikings Festival

Viking chieftains, flaming torches and outlandish costumes liven up a dark January day in Lerwick, Shetland, as the townsfolk celebrate 'Up Helly Aa'.

Non-Fiction 1927 4 mins Silent


Surprises abound in this extraordinary film of Shetland's famous fire festival, 'Up Helly Aa'. First up, chief Guizer Jarl and his Viking cronies lead a spectacular torch procession and boat burning ceremony. But the fun really begins with the costume parade (look out for the Michelin men) and comedy skits: an American prison scene, 'sheep' herding, and some wildlife spotting down by the shore...

Marking the end of the bleak midwinter, Up Helly Aa is held annually on the last Tuesday in January. The festival pays homage to Norse ritual and Shetland's Viking heritage, though it's actually a fairly modern custom, dating to around 1881. Like other newsreel companies, Gaumont Graphic sought out regularly occurring events and calendar customs. But few could be more impressive than this one, beautifully filmed and brilliantly bizarre.