Dear community, ye creatives, visionaries, revellers and mischief makers! It’s getting close to that time again when we come together to dream up our next Beltane Fire Festival. To begin this process, we are inviting applications to become one of our Group Organisers.
We are looking once more for a band of intrepid volunteer Group Organisers to help tell the story of Beltane. As a GO, your role will involve: developing your story and its key moments in close collaboration with the Beltane Court and Blues; recruiting and managing volunteers; making props and costumes; choreographing your activity, music, or rhythms; and contributing to the combined body and voice of our event. In return we can offer you an amazing experience during which you’ll learn new skills, meet new people, and make a difference to others by helping them on their journey to celebrate the start of Summer.
To help guide and shape your ideas, there is an outline of the processional narrative for our ritual celebration below – a story which has been told in one form or another by hundreds of volunteers over the years since we began in 1988. We also set out suggestions for some performance groups that we’d love to see make an appearance, and production groups that are vital to the existence of our festival. The groups mentioned below are ones that have all been part of the event before, but there is always scope for fresh interpretations of these groups, as well as for completely new and different concepts to be introduced. Bring your creativity and your unique vision to help us build something incredible together!
Please read through the following information carefully as there are some differences from our previous festivals, and then download the Application Form, Example Application Form and Guidance Information, linked at the end of this post.
The deadline for Group Organiser applications to be sent to festival[at]beltane[dot]org is 10pm on Friday 1st February 2019.
- Our Processional Narrative
- Performance Groups
- Production Groups
- Project Proposals
- Application Forms & Guidance
- GO Selection Process Beltane 2019
Our processional narrative…
At its core, this sequence of events sees the May Queen rise from the Earth and reveal Herself in Her maiden aspect. She is accompanied by Her former consort, the Green Man in his Winter Aspect, who has become old and decrepit. The May Queen must make a choice to travel through the Fire Arch, the door between the worlds, and catalyse the turn of the wheel, a process necessitating the sacrifice of the old God, in order for Him to be reborn anew.
Along the way the May Queen passes through the elemental points, awakening each one as She goes and gathering their energies. She is accompanied on this journey by the Whites, who represent an extension of Her being – fertility, power, and the focussed creative force.
The procession encounters many characters, which have appeared in many different manifestations over the years. It passes through each of the elements in turn – Air, Earth, Water, and Fire, each exulting in their own nature and passing something of themselves to the May Queen.
The Reds, counterpart in energy to the Whites – wild and chaotic – awaken alongside the procession and, upon the awakening of the Fire element, the passion and vigour within overcomes them. Attracted to the Divine light of the May Queen and the beauty of the Whites, they launch themselves at the procession.
The chaotic flow of their charge threatens the momentum of the processional ritual and so their advance is fought back, stymied by a show of power by the Whites, protective of their Queen.
The interest in these odd creatures has been awakened, though, and as the Reds make a feint at the procession again – displaying, peacock-like, their skills to the objects of their desire. The focus of the procession, however, barely wavers. Their journey is nearly done and, in triumph, they move off towards one of the main focal points of our ritual – the sacrifice and rebirth of the Green Man.
The May Queen, having gathered the many elemental forces around the Hill, spins them into a vortex, making right the conditions for the Green Man’s return. Witnessed by both our own and the wider community, this powerful death and rebirth sequence binds us together in our hope and desire for renewal. The Green Man presents himself to his Queen – if He is worthy, She will accept Him as Her new consort.
The first responsibility for the newly joined God and Goddess is to complete the journey of the Neid Fire and spark the bonfire, bringing light and warmth to the Hill and often seen as symbolising the marrying of the community. They then lead their court to the Bower, the hearth of the Hill.
At the Bower the ritual comes to a close, but not before the Reds and Whites have concluded their seduction, both accepting one another as their King and Queen have done. The only thing left to do from here is to dance and revel in the joy of the newborn Summer, as we invite our witnesses to dance with us.
In previous festivals, the following PERFORMANCE groups have played a role in the processional narrative, the journey of the May Queen and Green Man, and the traditions our society has created together…
The Whites are extensions of the May Queen’s will. A high commitment group, and core to the processional narrative, they are creative and intuitive spirits. They are keenly aware of the purpose of their journey and, with determined focus, will fulfil their obligations towards the Court before responding to the insistent whispers of their own desires.
The Whites embody a fierce but serene and focussed energy, bent towards powerfully protecting and shielding the procession and the ritual from the unbounded chaos of the Reds. They begin with the May Queen atop the Acropolis, greeting the elements and witnesses. They will not leave Her side until their duty is done, no matter how much they are tempted by fleeting glimpses of Red.
Once the May Queen and Her consort present their courtship at the bonfire, and the whole host return to the Bower to celebrate, the Whites freely and gladly choose to dance with the Reds, extending the union of the God and Goddess into the community.
Sparking with unbound, chaotic energy they feel compelled to unleash towards the procession, witnesses, and Hill, this is another high commitment group and core to the processional narrative. Newly birthed into the world on the night, the Reds are awed by what they have been awakened to. Every little detail is a thing to be explored, tested, tasted, clambered on, or similarly conquered.
These innocently mischievous newborn beings know no boundaries and so they are free to whirl and dance and express themselves in whatever fashion pleases them. Filled with power, but with no idea about what to do with it, they are enveloped in the myriad of earthly delights and sensations that they have been exposed to.
In seeing the Whites for the first time, they experience a maddening and heady mix of desire and confusion. They know not what these delectable creatures are, but are driven by a wild, passionate need to be with them, sensing their great strength and power. Their awakening has begun…
As the May Queen wends Her way around the Hill, She must renew and be rejuvenated by the elemental forces, weaving each one into the alchemy of Her purpose.
We would like to invite four separate groups to embody each elemental point of Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Each group is encouraged to create a performance around an elemental offering to the procession, as well as considering a second or multiple performances for the witnesses.
Alternatively, this second performance may involve a joining of forces with other elemental groups, to create a bigger piece involving all four elements. We encourage these groups to offer interpretations of the elements that contribute to the ritual, explore them, express them as BIG as you can, use the Hill in new and exciting ways, and let your imaginations run wild!
Our procession is nothing without the pounding beats of our drum crews, the most common being the Beasties and the Processionals. Be it the carnal chaotic Red heartbeat or the insistent and unstoppable rhythm of nature – or even a brand new drum group adding to the spirit of the night – we invite you to come forth and make us move!
The home of our Hill, our community, and the May Queen, the Bower is the space where the final ritual between Red and White is played out, a place of nourishment, safety, rest, and joy. We’re calling on your vision for this Sacred Hearth on the Hill, through creation of a magical space and facilitation of this final aspect of our ritual, ending with a warm welcome extended to all – performers and witnesses alike.
Bower, whilst it is a performance group, also deals with a lot of logistics – GOs interested in Bower may wish to have a chat with Blues, the EC or Board about what is expected of people in this role.
Our Torchbearers have always been an integral part of our ritual, adding ceremony and protection, as well as the creation of the sacred fire. They start the Neid Fire that sparks all other flames on the Hill, creating a liminal boundary between the outside world and witnesses and those within the procession. Please come forth if you wish to embody this character… and carry fire on a stick!
Torchbearers, whilst it is in part a performance group, also has some production elements – GOs interested in running Torchbearers may wish to have a chat with Blues, the EC or Board about what is expected of people in this role. Due to their close interaction with the Stewards production group, it’s common that these two groups work closely together, or as a single “Nightwatch” group.
Many other wonderful things
Group applications don’t just need to be for traditional groups. In the past, we’ve seen all manner of wonderful beasts, faeries, sprites and spirits, for example: No Point, The Faerie Porters, The Aerie, Random Points of Kindness, Storytellers and Bonfire Point, whose unique characters have all become part of our weaving narrative. They offer their own interpretation to the central story, creating stunning points of interest to light up the dark, fill the air with glorious sound and capture the imagination of all who encounter them.
For groups who choose to have a presence outside of the procession, there is great scope to create more intimate and interactive experiences, inviting witnesses to feel a personal connection to the event and create memories of an incredible evening that they can carry off the Hill with them. If you have a fantastic idea for a group like this, we encourage you to consider how you might use the available spaces within the landscape of the Hill, whether you will travel your own path, or adopt a static area for part/all of the night. Consider also how your core themes intertwine with the story being told, and how you will interact with the Court, the Blues, and the other groups on the night.
Our unique festival couldn’t happen without the wonderful PRODUCTION groups that are an essential presence, in order for the event to take place…
Our unique festival couldn’t happen without the wonderful production groups. These have included:
The wonderful people who help turn ideas into reality by creating the structures that showcase our ideas and give life to dreams. They are responsible for the logistics, structures, and fire art that form the backbone of our event. When all our performances are complete and we head off, they are the ones left to make sure that all of it is removed and safely packed away for next time.
Ensure that our spaces are safe and easily managed. They stand firm when others may fall, and if you fall, they will make sure help reaches you. Ideally this group should be run by someone with significant events stewarding experience, either from Beltane or other events. This group often work closely with the Torchbearers to form the “Nightwatch” group.
The fabulous folk who capture us in all our splendour, immortalising the night in visual memories of photos and video. At least one of the organisers of this group should have significant events photography experience, as getting the best shots of Beltane is a challenging (and awesome) task.
Offer information and guidance and welcome to our witnesses (the audience). We are looking for outgoing people who can help our witnesses understand our story and ritual.
We’re also on the hunt for GOs to run a small group of volunteers organising the afterparty too. It’s our private shindig after the main event ends, where those who have taken part in the festival and their friends can relax and celebrate in style.
These groups offer a different experience of the festival, providing an opportunity to participate in creating the event from a non-performance perspective, as well as learning and honing a range of professional skills. If you’re considering applying to run one of these groups, we encourage you to include amongst your GO team someone with relevant experience and/or skills, gained either inside or outwith BFS. Think about how you can run and develop a team of volunteers to work together with the Event Coordinator to create the well-oiled machine that powers the festival!
Our community is bursting with creativity and imagination. If you are an experienced BFS festival participant, and have an idea that you would like to make a reality as part of the 2019 festival – but feel it doesn’t fit with a group structure, or necessarily require recruitment of additional volunteers, please email festival[at]beltane[dot]org to request more information on how to submit a proposal. The deadline for submissions of proposals is Friday 1st February 2019 – email them to festival[at]beltane[dot]org. Proposals will be granted at the discretion of the Board, and you may be invited for a short interview to discuss your idea.
GO FOR IT!
You are invited to take inspiration from the over-arching narrative of Beltane, the casting off of Winter’s darkness and revelling in the joy of a newly birthed Summer, from fertility and celebration. Let us make our Beltane a wild Bacchanalian rumpus to drive the community of Edinburgh wild! Bring your beautiful visions to the night!
- Download and read through the application form, guidance form and GO agreement carefully.
- Email festival[at]beltane[dot]org to let them know if you intend to put an application in and for which group.
- Familiarise yourself with the narrative and production roles above.
- Come along to the Pre-GO meeting to talk shop / get ideas / find a Co-GO on Sunday 20th Jan, 13:00 – 15:00 at Kilderkin on the bottom of the Royal Mile
- Fill out your application form and send to festival[at]beltane[dot]org by Friday 1st February 10pm.
Featured image by Ashley Erdman for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.