The Mareel Debate refers to the controversy regarding the building of Mareel, a cinema and music venue at North Ness. Although the building is well underway, the issue is still widely debated. On this page you can find the council voting record and the arguments used by either side.
Arguments For Mareel
- Lack of existing suitable venues
In April 2007, popular venue North Star closed its doors, after being sold to Hjaltland Housing Association.The North Star was one of few suitable venue in Shetland, and its closure prompted further discussion regarding Mareel. Currently, there are several venues in Lerwick capable of hosting a gig, however they are not ideal for bands to play, as the acoustics of the existing venues are not suitable for those who care to enjoy the sound of the music. Many bands are now forced to play in pubs, many of which do not even have stages, or suitable standing room. This argument is also accentuated by the need to distance music, and young people, from the drink culture currently associated with entertainment generally in Shetland.
- Promotion of Shetland Music
Mareel is seen as the ideal stage upon which local Shetland music can be showcased. Not only will Mareel be a venue, it will also be a professional recording studio and it will contain recording rooms.
- Ability to attract popular bands
Shetland has struggled to regularly attract 'big' bands to Shetland, and it is argued that this is because there is no suitable venue which can effectively host a professional gig. The capacity of Mareel will be of required size to host large bands. Also, Mareel will feature a built in lighting and sound system - previously if a popular band came to Shetland, a PA sound system would need to be taken up, costing thousands.
- Unsuitable existing venue
The current venue for showing movies publicly is the Garrison Theatre, which has been criticised as being too irregular and uncomfortable for a cinema.
Arguments Against Mareel
- Cost and Size
Arguments were raised against Mareel, with critics having issue with both the size and cost of the venue. Mareel, in its current form, is set to cost around £9 million, with at least £5m coming from the SIC.
Doubts were cast on Mareel's ability to sustain itself without being continually funded by the council.
Critics argued that Mareel was not needed, as they claimed that there was just not enough demand for a large music and cinema venue in Shetland.