• Text by Huck
Huck docs — Fire Starters is a new Huck film that follows two young women as they try to gain access to the all-male fire festival, Up Helly Aa.

Each year, the Scottish isle of Shetland plays host to Up Helly Aa – a renowned Viking festival characterised by singing, costumes, and fire-fuelled spectacles.

The one-day event has been lighting up the shores of Lerwick since 1876, and attracts visitors from all over the world. Primarily, they are there to see hundreds of men dress up in ornate Viking outfits and parade through the town’s streets, in a nod to their Scandinavian heritage. At the end of the day’s festivities, a large replica longship is set on fire.

Unfortunately, women are not invited. Despite the fact we are well into the 21st century, the Up Helly Aa organising committee has refused to allow any women or girls to be involved in the squads. Their argument, they say, is down to historical accuracy. “We’re described as being backwards, like if something is restricted to just men then we need some sort of reform,” explains Erik Moncrieff, a squad viking and festival volunteer. “But it’s not a serious issue. It’s absolutely and totally irrelevant.”

It’s a subject that is tackled in Fire Starters, a new Huck doc directed by Harriet Constable. The short film – viewable above – follows two young activists, Lindsey Manson and Izzy Gibson, as they try to gain access to the festivities and butt against tired old traditions.

These women believe now is the time to speak out about their discrimination from taking part in Up Helly Aa as women, not just for themselves but also for their daughters, who are also excluded on the basis of their sex,” says Constable. “Up Helly Aa may indeed be the last public cultural event in the UK to openly exclude based on gender in this way.”

Watch the film in full above.

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