What a long lovely Summer it’s been! Now we’re gearing up to our next seasonal performance, Samhuinn Fire Festival, where we’ll come together as a community and ready ourselves to face Winter together.
Below are the groups that will make up the story we tell at Samhuinn, which you can sign up to perform in at our Open Meeting this weekend. Join us this Sunday 1st September in The Out of the Blue Drill Hall from 1.30pm to hear more about each group and have your questions answered by the Group Organisers.
When you initially sign up to one of our groups, whether by email or at the Open Meeting, we will collect your name and email address so our Group Organisers can keep in touch with updates directly related to your voluntary engagement. We will not use your information for any other purpose without first asking for your consent and we will not share your email with external organisations.
Have a read through the descriptions, requirements, and rehearsal times below before this weekend to see which group you think you would fit best into.
- Beastie Drummers
- Gaia Filiae
- Guth Na Mara (Voice of the Sea)
- Photo Point
- Triskele Drummers
- Wild Hunt
- Winter Drummers
Organisers Sara Thomas, Alun Evans, Sam Haddow
“Summer’s run its course to death
All passion spent and burning
Hurtling to its final breath.”
Beasties are a rambunctious drum crew, spirits of misrule and mayhem. We play loud and slutty Summer funk, we drag every scrap of sunlight and silliness out of the waning season and when winter comes, we run headlong and cackling into our fate. It’s the last party before winter. Best to run headlong into it and go out with a bang rather than a whimper, no?
We’re looking for old-hands and complete newbies – anybody who wants to play drums and challenge themselves is welcome. Our crew consists of basses, kit snares, shakers and djembes – if you don’t have one don’t worry, we can source and loan drums as needed. We do plenty of character work and we stress the importance of ritual engagement – this is not just a performance for us. If this sounds like it could be you, then come to an open practice – Beasties would be delighted to meet you. Beasties are a high-commitment group; we do not expect members to attend every rehearsal, but you will need to be able to attend the majority.
Rehearsals are on Wednesdays between 7-10pm at The Bongo Club and every Sunday between 1pm-3pm on the Meadows then 4pm-7pm in The Bongo Club.
Open practices will be in The Bongo Club from 7-10pm on Monday 2nd, Wednesday 4th, and Thursday 5th September.
Away weekend Friday 4th – Sunday 6th October. Attendance for members is mandatory.
Organisers Jane Mann, Katy Swift, Rosa Mackay
We are a dance and movement group, working closely with the Cailleach to discover the ways we can use our bodies to express the myriads of grief, anguish or despair. You will need a willingness to explore hidden or uncomfortable places within yourself. We will be using conscious embodied movement with the intention of creating choreographed and free movement dance performances for Samhuinn night. We will explore the possibilities and limitations of the body, and its ability to move in grotesque and uncanny ways, creating eerie, unnerving shapes.
There will be two practices per week, one more focused on experimentation and the other more focused on choreographing our journey around the hill. There will be a gentle approach to the themes of death and grief. We ask that group members show up ready to try new ways of moving and open to the process of finding our pathway around the hill.
We’re looking for anyone that loves to express themselves through moving their body, feels that they need to explore this, or who would like to work with how grief is held in the body. Any physical disability can be accommodated for. Equally we will be mindful of the many emotions members may have attached to their bodies. This group is intended as a safe place for members to explore their physicality. We are a high commitment group.
Rehearsals are on Thursdays between 6.30pm-9.00pm and on Sundays between 1.00pm-5.00pm
Open practices will be on Sunday 8th September between 3.00pm-6.00pm at Holyrood Park Rangers’ Station and on Thursday 12th September between 6.30pm-9.00pm in G.25 at St Margaret’s House.
Away weekend Saturday 5th – Sunday 6th October
Organisers Maïlis Marty, Sophia Halamoda, Jessica Sweet
Gaia Filiae are a group of belly dancers who use the ancient fertility dance to explore their connection to Mother Earth and nature’s cycles. Our journey began at Beltane, when we emerged from our dormant Winter state, awoke into Spring and became stronger as we reached the peak of our fertility in our celebratory Summer state.
Now, it is time for us follow through and complete the cycle that began when we first awoke. As we once turned our faces to the sun and gained power from fecundity, it is now time for us to harvest the energy that we have been tending to and has been growing within us and to embrace the darkest season and the accompanying wisdom that we have cultivated. We dance with Death, we bury the fetid fruit, knowing that its seeds, though apparently lifeless, indeed contain the unlimited possibilities of dormant potential, needing to winter to gather new strength. We are at our most vulnerable, cracked open, raw, wounded. We dance with our shadows to welcome the Crone.
We’re looking for performers who have previously performed with Gaia Filiae, or people who have expressed an interest in our concept and are interested in exploring the ancient art form of belly dance.
Rehearsals are split between a mandatory session every Sunday between 2.00pm-4.30pm in St Margaret’s House and optional sessions on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 6.45pm-9.00pm.
Open practices will be on Wednesday 4th September between 6.45pm-9.00 in St Margaret’s House (G25).
Away weekend Saturday 5th – Sunday 6th October
Guth Na Mara (Voice of the Sea)
Organisers Eleanor Buffam, Fiona Hunter, Ian Donaldson
As Guth na Mara, the Voice of the Sea, we will embody the mysterious, beautiful and vengeful aspects of the sea – those aspects that claim human life by death, by transformation and by the separation of loved ones. In the Scottish Gaelic culture we will represent, the sea is loved and feared, an emotional landscape respected but never mastered. In appearance some of us will be kelpies, selkies and other dark and fascinating sea creatures. Others will be humans doomed by the sea’s treachery and violence – drowned or broken against rocks. We will sing traditional Gaelic songs, many about the sea, as we interact with other groups and mark the stormy transition from summer to winter. We may dance, and there will also be instrumentation on some songs, including mandolin and guitar.
We’re looking for all who are interested in learning and singing Gaelic songs and ensuring Scottish Gaelic culture continues to be part of Samhuinn. No prior experience as either a Gaelic speaker or a singer is required.
Rehearsals are on Thursdays between 7.30pm-9.30pm at Edinburgh College of Art and on Sundays between 2.30-4.30pm at the Meadows.
Open practices will be on Thursday 5th September between 7.30pm-9.30pm at Edinburgh College of Art, Sunday 8th September between 2.30-4.30pm at the Meadows, and Thursday 12th September between 7.30pm-9.30pm at Edinburgh College of Art.
Away weekend Saturday 5th – Sunday 6th October. Not mandatory.
Organisers Romaine Furmston-Evans, Tamsyn Ball, Katherine Anne Bradley
Obsidian is a group of Winter warriors, aimed at representing strength and beauty of the winter powers. Obsidian is a crystallised volcanic lava, similarly we want to show how chaotic energy of fire can be transformed in an organised and structural way. Obsidian symbolises frozen fire, that will for the base of the character work. As a core aspect of the Winter forces, we feed off Winter’s rising energy and grow ever more powerful throughout the night, culminating in a fiery display of wintery strength. Our character will keep developing throughout the night, as winter wakes up and takes over summer, our initial solemn yet hesitant demeanour will transform into a powerful attitude representing the icy grip of the season. In stark contrast to the playfulness and chaos of summer, our movements will be controlled and growing in force. Our costuming will represent our core theme of the elemental force produced when fire meets ice, group colours will be silver and black.
We’re looking for people open to exploring their darker side, embracing the inevitable turning of the wheel of the year and bringing in Winter in a fury of fiery glory. Due to the physical nature of the group you will need to have a basic level of physical fitness to join. We would love to have members with some fire spinning experience – training provided will be focussed on acro. So in order to spin safely on the night, personal practice/experience will be key. We will be fierce and spiky to the outside world but creating a warm nurturing and supportive environment within our inner triangle. Be ready to feel empowered!
Rehearsals are on Wednesdays between 7.30pm-10pm and on Sundays between 12pm-3pm in the Meadows.
Open practices will be Wednesday 4th September between 7.30pm-10pm at the Meadows and Sunday 8th September between 12pm-3pm at the Meadows. The group will close on Sunday 8th September.
Away weekend Friday 4th – Sunday 6th October. Attendance for group members is mandatory.
Organisers Gordon Veitch, Vince Graham, Mark Taylor
Photo and video group capturing the splendour of the festival in its entirety. We aim to produce pictures/video of the groups from rehearsals through to the two Walkthroughs and the night of the festival.
We will hold photography workshops specifically aimed at preparing our members for photographing the festival. We photograph preparations leading up to the festival as well as the festival itself.
We’re looking for enthusiastic photographers and video photographers who have their own camera gear (preferably DSLR or mirrorless) and can commit to attending and photographing evening rehearsals for other groups.
Rehearsals are on Sundays and Wednesdays with some sessions on Monday nights at Fire Club on The Meadows.
Open practices will be Sunday 8th September at 1.00pm in Deaf Action, 49 Albany Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3QY.
Away weekend TBC
Organisers Charlie Clarke and Rosamund McCormack
Reds are summer aligned, born with the lighting of the fires at Beltane and settling to rest as the Samhuinn fires are extinguished. They fight back against the coming winter, full of the power and vigour and joy and life that comes with summer, but must face the inevitable in order for the seasons to continue. In the meantime we will lick and bite and squeeze and play with everything we can get our hands on.
We’re looking for people looking to explore their inner RED. You will be taking part in acro performance, character play, and helping to create an intimate family that looks out for each other on the night of the festival. Because of the physical nature of the Reds performance we will not be able to accommodate physical disabilities for activities like acro, however there may be opportunities for people to take part in character work instead.
Rehearsals are every Wednesday from 7pm and on Sunday afternoons with varying times, all meeting at Red Point on The Meadows.
Open practices will be on Saturday 7th September from 2.00pm at Red Point on The Meadows and on Monday 9th September from 7.00pm meeting at Red Point on The Meadows.
Away weekend Friday 4th – Sunday 6th October
Organisers Dee Wolf and Nick Toth
The Stewards are the friendly human face of the Samhuinn Fire Festival. We work with the production crew, emergency services, and the performing groups to make sure everyone has a safe and joyful Samhuinn. We are not a performing group, but we will interact heavily with the audience, telling them about the significance of the celebrations and about some of the things they will see, so that they can make the most of their experience.
We are looking for people of all experience levels who may not have have vast amounts of time to dedicate to the festival this year. This is also a great introduction to Beltane for new, unacquainted members. If you are keen to join us, but can’t make all the meetings, talk to us anyways. We are a flexible group, run by and for people with real-world responsibilities.
Rehearsals will be on Calton Hill from 1-4pm every Sunday starting Sunday 8th September.
Away weekend TBC
Organisers Claire Graf, Daniel Rylatt, Peter Jackson
In the run up to Beltane we build fire sculptures and props for groups, preparing everything to be taken to the Hill. In the days immediately before and on the day, we prepare Calton Hill for the festival – building stages and decorating the hill, as well as setting up the fencing, crowd barriers, toilets and lighting. During the event, as well as looking after the safety of our audience and performers, we run the neid fire to the key points, making sure all the performers have the light and toys they need and maybe even fire some pyrotechnics. At the end of the event and on the day after we take it all down again.
Impressing the audience with our excellently laundered red overalls. Hopefully our audience interaction will be low, acting as ninjas in the shadows making sure props/fire are controlled and working as expected. In the event of mishaps we will ensure (possibly with the help of stewards) the audience is kept safe.
We’re looking for people who like to build stuff, make stuff, paint stuff, and who look great in an orange boiler suit. Although some tech tasks involve heavy lifting and carrying there are many roles and task that don’t. There is flexibility to support volunteers within any limitations they might have. For example if group member wouldn’t have energy to help with the build, show and take down then they could do one of these and help with the prep days.
Meet ups will be on Sundays from 11.00am.
Away weekend TBC
Organisers Feòrag Forsyth and Jenn C. Davis
The Torchbearers will provide the light for the festival, with their traditional black cloaks and (mostly) stoic manner. This includes the essential ritual element, the Neid fire, and working with the other groups to illuminate their performances and consolidate their stories.
We’re looking for people of all experience levels who may not have have vast amounts of time to dedicate to the festival this year. This is also a great introduction to Beltane for new, unacquainted members. Regular practices will include practical training in carrying a burning torch safely. Some of the practices will include workshops for activities such as making torch balls, torch ball soaking, fire practices, and costuming.
Rehearsals are on Thursdays and Sundays from 7.00pm.
Open practices will be on Thursday 5th September, Sunday 8th September, and Thursday 12th September from 7.00pm.
Away weekend TBC
Organisers Anna Ciborowska, Simone Mckenzie, and Dani Jakwerth
As Triskele drummers, we will be exploring a deep connection to Samhuinn Night, all paths and journeys that life entails, and things that come in threes. We are transitional rather than affiliated with Summer or Winter, embodying and summarising the process that other participants of the festival are collectively undergoing. Our three transition stages represent a joyful denial of Summer ending, a period of uncertainty and confusion, and a willing acceptance of the unavoidable coming of Winter. We sense this shift happen around us on the Hill as brought about by other groups even as we are going through it ourselves, and echo it through our rhythms and performance.
We’ll have a smaller set of rhythms than other drum crews, leaving more time to focus on honing the skills and techniques of playing as a group and exploring different ways to express ourselves through drums and performance, and more room for our story and themes.
We’re looking for people interested in a journey of self-growth and exploring the possibilities of expression through the medium of rhythm and performance. We are open to all levels of experience, and can cater to different accessibility requirements.
Rehearsals are on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons.
Open practices will be on Wednesday 4th September between 7pm-9pm at Coloursound, Saturday 7th, September between 2pm-5pm in Blackford quarry, and Wednesday 11th September at Coloursound.
Away weekend Friday 27th – Sunday 29th September.
Organisers David and Emmie Creighton-Offord
We are the Valravn, ravens who have stolen the forms of humans, mercenaries and makers of dark deals, feasting on the fallen and taking their power into ourselves.
In the darkness of Winter there lies a hearth, around which feathered figures gather.
These masks are our true faces and our faces merely masks.
Without death we could not live.
Because all things must have a price.
Winter holds no fear for us.
It is the time when we can reunite before the sun scatters us again.
We welcome the spirits and celebrate them.
Join us in our revelry and please, do ignore the screams.
The Valravn this year are travellers and troublemakers, convening after a long time apart to share stories of their misdeeds and to remember their lost kin. We gather around the Hearth and welcome those lost in the dark to hear our haunting tales, to entertain and set the table for the feast.
We’re looking for unusual individuals who share our passion for the Winter. Storytellers, dancers, singers, musicians, fire spinners, stage fighters and eccentrics of all kinds, to create a beautiful space and a troupe of fabulously costumed characters to entertain in a joyful dark cabaret performance.
Rehearsals are on Wednesday evenings in Newhaven and Sunday afternoons (various locations).
Open practices will be on Wednesdays 4th and Wednesday 11th September between 7.30pm- 10.30pm in Newhaven and on Sunday 8th September between 1.00pm-4.00pm in Victoria Park.
Away weekend Saturday 28th – Sunday 29th September
Organisers Victoria Trimm and Pia Kullik
Somewhere in the far north, the Mad Shaman blows his horn. He summons the spirits of the deep, dark forests, inviting them to join him as he celebrates the arrival of the Cold. But those who come are not who he expected…
They took away our ancient forest, so we did what we had to do – what all of nature must do – to survive: We evolved. We made a new home for ourselves in the engines, the foundries and power stations of this land, and this time, we’re here to stay.
The Hunt is back.
Affiliated with Winter (but by no means an obedient servant), we roam the Hill at our own will. On Samhuinn night, we celebrate the changing of the seasons as an opportunity for new beginnings, and we’re going to do it in the biggest, fiercest, most spectacular way we can come up with.
We’re looking for all dancers, wild creatures, fire folk and mad scientists to join us as we write the next chapter of the Wild Hunt story. We’re open to anyone regardless of age, experience or physical fitness, and we explicitly welcome applications from people with disabilities or chronic illness.
Rehearsals are on Thursdays between 7.00-10.00pm and on Sundays between 4.00pm-10.00pm.
Open practices will be on Thursday 5th September between 7.00pm-10.00pm and on Sunday 8th September between 4.00pm-10.00pm meeting on The Meadows by the tennis courts.
Away weekend TBC
Organisers Lindsey Bell, Tom Caine, and Danielle Christie
In a nutshell we are the soundtrack of Winter. Through our beats we communicate the hardships we’ve been through, the anticipation of rising power, the thrill our compatriots’ experience on the hunt. We lament Summer’s demise and celebrate the turning of the wheel. We are an example of the better things that can be found in the darkness: camaraderie, support, nurture and a bloody good party. One to which all are welcome.
We’re looking for enthusiastic and committed people who want to lose themselves to the beat, get funky, celebrate community, and that are prepared to do their homework! Previous drumming experience not required but welcome. There will be some light character work but it will be secondary to drums. DRUMS!
Rehearsals are on Wednesdays between 7pm-10pm in The Bongo Club and on Sundays between 5pm-9pm in Coloursound (and outside).
Open practices will be in The Bongo Club from 7-10pm on Monday 2nd, Wednesday 4th, and Wednesday 11th September.
Away weekend Friday 18th October
Featured image by Scott A. Winchester for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.