Laurence first took part in Samhuinn as a Winter Drummer in 2014. Here, he talks about the meeting of performance and ritual…
I’ve been keen on drumming for years, and I’m a member of the Edinburgh Samba School. I fancied trying a different, more technical style of drumming, and I was also attracted by the narrative and ritualistic aspects of Beltane and Samhuinn. The idea of being immersed as a character in a larger, cohesive performance really appealed to me, since there aren’t many opportunities in modern secular life for that sort of experience.
Although I loved the drumming, my stand-out memory was probably the time between leaving the getting ready space and the beginning of the procession. After all the laughter of putting on our costumes and body paint, things suddenly changed, becoming very solemn and real. When we gathered as a group outside the getting ready space in our masks, cloaks and colours, we took a few minutes to think about and inhabit our characters, and at that point the atmosphere around us became absolutely electric. Walking up an empty Johnston Terrace in silent procession, I could feel the drama of the ritual beginning to stir. We arrived at the Royal Mile and, as we waited in still, silent formation for the other groups to move into their positions, the drama of the location and the palpable anticipation of the crowd was incredible. Those twenty or so minutes were extraordinary, and that was before the drumming began!
Having seen Samhuinn from the inside I’m interested to see how things are done differently this time. I plan to take part again (next year, hopefully) so it’ll be good to see how it evolves.
Photo of Laurence at Samhuinn 2014 by Michelle Linnane