Marie first took part in a BFS event as a Torchbearer at Samhuinn 2013. Since then, she has been a Steward and organised Contact Point and Torchbearers. In the second of our What Makes Beltane Special? articles, she talks about the immersive experience, unique atmosphere and global reach of our festival.
Before I took part in Beltane I’d experienced it as an audience member in 2013. I knew people who were involved in it for years and I’d heard about it so much that I eventually went along. I was instantly addicted, as was the friend that I went with. We had an “OMG we HAVE to get involved in this” reaction. Watching Beltane is very atmospheric. It’s very surreal, like you’re looking into another world. When you’re part of that world, what you get as a performer from the audience is electric and there’s definitely a feeling of “We did this amazing thing”. It’s that feeling plus the amazing people you meet that keeps you coming back again and again each festival.
For the price of a ticket you might get nosebleed seats in a theatre where you wouldn’t be able to see much and you’d be seeing it from a distance. Beltane is not only immersive but everyone’s experience of it, even on the same night, is unique because you can choose what you see of the performance or just take in the electric atmosphere.
My favourite Beltane memory is from 2014 when I was in Contact Point. I got to experience the festival as a volunteer and was able to see a reasonable amount of it like an audience member so I had the best of both worlds! I spent time talking to the audience about what was going on and it was great to be able to engage with people like that as it allowed them to be more connected to the festival and performances.
That night, I was greeting audience members as they came onto the Hill and the Edinburgh Evening News took a picture of our group. The picture went up on their Facebook page at around 7.30pm on Beltane night, about an hour and a half before the procession started. Before the festival even began, that picture had already gone round the world and I was getting messages from Canada, USA and New Zealand. The reach of Beltane not just as far as the Hill on the night, but to a global community of people who can’t be there but avidly follow everything about the night online. It’s fantastic!
Beltane for me is addictive, home, family, spectacular to see, encompassing like a massive warm hug. My favourite thing about it is the surrealness. It’s like looking into another world, completely awe-inspiring that people have managed to create such an awesome thing especially when you realise the timescale it’s done in.
Want to come to Beltane Fire Festival 2016 on 30th April? Book your ticket HERE.
Photo of Marie by Richard Winpenny