Behind the Curtain: Building Belief

In the second of his Behind the Curtain series, Andy Meechan talks about how BFS volunteers work together create a vibrant Festival experience for themselves and the audience…

The unequivocal main force behind Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Festival is our Volunteers. Directing their focus and helping them to develop their potential are our Group Organisers (GOs).

Our Festival engenders incredible passion from participants and provides a myriad of opportunities to stoke it in others; helping enable experiences that only two months prior seemed improbable. It is about discovering and achieving the potential of self. It is about building belief, specifically: self-belief

The Red pyramid at Beltane 2009 by Daniel Rannoch
The Red Pyramid, Beltane 2009, by Daniel Rannoch

As seen in most areas of life our Volunteers display a spread of confidence, ability and experience. For example, one of our most outgoing (and photographed) groups, ‘The Reds’, are composed of a majority who actively seek to display, or otherwise engage with, their confidence. Some groups draw the more introspective to them. The majority, however, have a median that represents what one would perhaps recognise as more ‘balanced’.

Each of these groups has its own challenges to manage, overcome, or master and it is the Group Organisers that provides the inspiration and vision which ties it together. These individuals apply in pairs for the role of leading volunteers through a life-changing nine week process of discovery and invention. (We have found that paired teams of Organisers better self-support.)

The Elementals at Beltane 2012 by Raini Scott
The Elementals group portrait, Beltane 2012, by Raini Scott

‘Life-changing’ is a weighty title to place on any experience so it is only fair to say that the Beltane Fire Festival will not change your life: only you can make such changes. To that end the Group Organisers are there to help empower you, to encourage your confidence, and guide your burgeoning self-belief. It’s quite a task, but one that is extremely rewarding for all involved.

Our Group Organisers work in a creative environment, pushing their own boundaries while providing a shared environment for our Volunteers to do the same. They bring a celebratory vision of Summer that speaks to the audience, other participants, and their group on different levels. It is all volunteered, but the rewards are many-fold: accomplishment and satisfaction; a massive performance buzz; a stronger self-belief; and life-long friendship.

Feel free to contact me at to suggest topics for insights into what happens behind the curtain. If I cannot answer it then I can probably find someone who can.

Andy has been volunteering with Beltane Fire Society since 1999 and has at various times performed, produced, led workshops, and been a Trustee of the Society; he is continually in awe at the passion of our Volunteers.

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