AN annual fire festival in Shetland is to have women involved in its jarl squad for the first time in its 150-year history.

Lerwick Up Helly Aa is held on the last Tuesday of January, and this year’s event will see men and women leading the torchlight procession.

It was previously only men who were allowed to lead the procession, but Up Helly Aa officials changed the rule in 2022. The jarl squad consists of the Guizer Jarls squad - the one leading the procession - who are the same group that normally participate in the festival amongst the other 46 squads.

As well as the Guizer Jarl's normal squad members, guests are invited into the squad. It is considered a great privilege and can be a once in a lifetime chance to many.

READ MORE: Shetlanders explain Up Helly Aa tradition – in the Shaetlan language

The women will appear alongside this year’s Guizer Jarl, Richard Moar – an engineer from Shetland who has been obsessed with the festival since he was five years old and said the event was the only reason he felt homesick whilst at university in Edinburgh.

He said: “Every year is a highlight, every year is different. You do everything you can to make it work for the Jarl.

“We’ve had some real good fun and some difficult decisions to make, but what we do is for the best of the festival to keep it a success.”

Moar intends to have his daughter and three nieces take part.

The National:

His daughter Jenna Moar, 16,will be one of the first female participants in this year’s jarl squad.

She said: “It’s quite a historic moment in time and it’s really special having dad as the Guizer Jarl and being in of his squad this year.

“When dad ask me, I thought about how it’s a once-on-a-lifetime opportunity to have your dad as the guizer jarl.

“If I didn’t do it I might have regrets, and then if I did do it you’d enjoy the night surrounded by family and friends.”

Up Helly Aa is organised by a voluntary committee of 17 members, each selected by the guizers – or costumed participants – with one new member elected each year.

The members don Viking-style clothing as more than 1000 torches are lit on the day.

The event begins at 8.20am with the morning parades. There will then be an evening procession at 7pm.