In the fourth of our series of ‘Tales from Beltane’ guest posts, Brad shares his perspective as a member of the audience and a first time performer…
As an audience member
It was the drums that hooked me when I first went to see Beltane. You stand around for a while, a few hours if you are very eager, and then suddenly the crowd quiets down as the horns blow, signalling the start of something magical. The cameras start flashing when you see the torch bearers take positions on the Acropolis and you can feel the build up in the air all around. Then when that first drumstick hits the skin of the drum and the crowd erupts into noise does that feeling that I can only describe as “that Beltane feeling” truly hits you.
Brad’s photo of Calton Hill before night descended and Beltane began.
From that to all around the entire procession as you try to follow every part of what is going on, which does require you to come back multiple times so you can actually witness everything, you are constantly following those drums (the fire on sticks also helps). The beats that those drums play throughout the night will stick with you for days, whether you are humming or tapping them out, and they never fail to bring that slight smile to your face at just how amazing the whole experience is.
Brad’s photo of the May Queen and Green Man passing by at the end of the festival.
As a performer for the first time
I didn’t know what to expect at first volunteering to help out at Beltane. I had seen the performance several times in the past and that year finally decided to take the plunge and become one of the performers. Going to the Open Meeting I first felt terrified, feeling I was intruding on some select club, though that idea quickly disappeared as the groups got up and did their pitches, all full of humour to ease the nervous newcomers no doubt. I went to two other group meetings but it was when I got to the Torchies meeting that it clicked.
While sitting and socialising with the other members, some new like me and some veterans of the scene, this feeling just hit me. It was like I had finally come home to a family I didn’t even realise had been missing, that these people I had just met became good friends so easily. After this feeling I knew where my group was and happily threw myself into it all, not seeing this as volunteering for a charity but more like friends all hanging doing a few fun interesting tasks. With this group of friends I got to take part in something amazing and beautiful.
Brad (middle) at a Torchbearers rehearsal. Photo by Bleu Hope.
Starting at the Acropolis was absolutely terrifying, seeing all those people gathered to watch us and see what we had spent the last two months preparing for. Thankfully I trusted those all around me, knowing that we were all there for each other and had all worked hard to make this as spectacular as possible. Afterwards, you all just share in that special moment with each other where you realise just how awesome that whole experience was and that you are glad you went through it all together. From this you know you will see a majority of these people when the summons comes again next year for volunteers. I guess that means that everyone at Beltane has become my family away from family.