Event Coordinator Sara is an expert on the not-inconsiderable costs involved in making Beltane Fire Festival possible. Here, she explains why the event is ticketed and what your ticket fee pays for, including some things that will probably surprise you!
One of the questions we’re often asked online (and sometimes in person) is a variation of “Why do you have to pay to get into Beltane?” Last year we wrote a post called What does your ticket fee buy?, and we’re revisiting the same topic this year, shortly before a big Saturday night event.
When the festival first started in 1988, and up until not too many years ago, it was an unticketed event, and one which did not attract an entrance fee, other than donations collected – much like Samhuinn is. For various reasons, including the need to control the number of people on the Hill, significant costs associated with staging the event, and the need for a Public Entertainment Licence, Beltane became a ticketed, paid-for event. Many folk still comment on the change. Which is fair enough, it was a big change.
So by way of explanation, here’s an insight into what I call the “unsexy” side of Beltane. Fair warning – this contains a lot of detail about some relatively dull, but necessary, stuff…
Beltane Fire Society is a registered charity and the Beltane Fire Festival is pretty much our only source of income. We do a couple of busks every year (one before Beltane and one before Samhuinn), we get the odd donation through the website, and last year the lovely folk at Scotmid gave us some money toward craft materials for Family Beltane. We don’t receive money from the council (in fact, we pay some departments quite a bit of cash for various elements), or any external funders. If we have any trust funders in the audience, we’d be delighted to hear from you!
To put the festival on, we need to pay for the following:
Public Entertainment Licence, Section 89 permit (permission to erect a raised structure), SIA-licensed security, the use of Calton Hill and associated staff costs, van hire, stage hire, PA hire, toilets (oh so many toilets!), a portable cabin as a box office, additional crew to assist with the de-rig, 2-way radios, hydraulic lifts, body paint (as much as a small shop buys in a year, apparently), fencing, lighting, generators, web hosting, email hosting, office rent, paraffin (can’t have a fire festival without fire), storage space, fire rope, diesel for the van, ticketing staff, poster and flyer printing and distribution, clean up of the Hill, and in other years we have or may have to pay for Police and road closures. We also pay for a few essential contractors to look after it all. Part-time, we have a Press Officer, an Event Safety Officer, and an Event Coordinator, who work only around the festivals. Year round, we also have an Online Comms Coordinator. Everyone else, from the May Queen to the red-boiler-suited Tech crew, is a volunteer.
So when you look around the Hill and see the fire sculptures burning as the Whites descend the steps, when you see a red-painted drummer beating out a rhythm that’s so infectious that you just have to dance, when you pass a Portaloo…just remember, that the event is so much more than the sum of its parts, and you’ve helped make it happen. Thank you for your support.
Photo of Beltane 2013 by Sylwia Kowalczyk