I took part in my school’s YES Company programme during 1992/93. Our company, BECSA, in a ruthlessly capitalist move, was formed to mop up the overspill in demand for adult computing nightclasses in pre-Internet days. As a band of 8 pupils we retaught what we’d just been taught about a subject we barely knew well enough to teach. Which, I understand, is what being a secondary school teacher is all about. 1
BECSA didn’t win the Shetland heats: another company who produced a magazine, Allegedly Ltd (containing an exclusive interview with Arthur Fowler), did. I’m not bitter. Apart from these last 20 years.
The following year, YES Shetland’s winning company was a troupe called ‘Aurora’ who created another publication – a small staple-bound book entitled ‘Da Street’. With help from museum staff and local historians they catalogued the recent history of Lerwick’s Commercial Street, itemising, alongside a few pictures, which business each building had housed in the last 100 year period. I think it’s one of the best things to come out of a Shetland YES company. Perhaps a revised print could be issued?
The really interesting thing to me then, as now, is that Commercial Street hasn’t really changed shape in living memory. Façades, of course, are always in flux. Shops change hands and entire businesses and tradenames can vanish into time. Foundation stones, window and door outlines remain as fixed as when I first met them as a boy.
When you are young the world appears to have always been this way, and the first change you witness can be like an earthquake. With one closure or renaming your whole world has changed. Maybe witnessing enough change makes you immune, with each subsequent disappearance or remodelling having less and less impact.
But for me it’s still eerie walking into a building I knew laid out in a once seemingly fixed format, and finding it transformed to another. Did, my past actually happen? New buildings don’t have such ghosts attached, but of the ones on Commercial Street some foundation stones feel as if they are your foundation stones too.
I remember many conversations in-ower with Granddad which had the phrase, ‘this place usedta be…’ and I thought, ‘wow, he must be old, I can’t remember it being that at all’. I only had to let a little time pass and I was saying it too…
I suppose this film is for anyone who has felt that they may be the same inside, but part of their exterior foundation has metamorphosed just beyond comfortable familiarity, hiding under paintwork, plaster and ‘progress’.
- A joke. Teaching is of course also about long summer holidays and despair. ↩