Help us forge this year’s Beltane story as a group organiser

This is a shout-out to our community – to all our storytellers, performers, musicians, devisers and mischief-makers – to help create our next festival as a volunteer group organiser (aka GO)! We want you to share with us your time, ideas, and visions, to help us tell the story of Beltane.

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 have had many various groups appear throughout the years – some come back each year while some are a rare one time appearance and we look forward to seeing a variety of group ideas this festival.

If you’re ready to apply, please read through the following information carefully, and then download the Application Form, Example Application Form and Guidance Information, linked at the end of this post. Complete the form and send it to us at festival[at]beltane[dot]org.

The deadline for Group Organiser applications is now 10pm on Tuesday 18th February (for second round applications).

Beltane’s 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.

Copyright Gordon Veitch for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. /

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.

Copyright Gladys Yelland for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. /

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.

Copyright Asier Goikoetxea for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. /

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.

Copyright Prem Shah for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. /

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.

Want to organise a performance group?

Drummers, dancers, acrobats, fire spinners, musicians, spirits, torchbearers, roaming faeries, hags, mythical creatures and all the rest! It’s time for you to make your vision a reality with a group of volunteers who will work together to make this Beltane an unforgettable celebration.

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!

As the organiser of a performance group, your role will involve recruiting, organising and training volunteers, developing a story with the rest of the Society, making any necessary props and costumes, sorting out choreography, music or rhythms, and giving a body and voice to our event. In return, we can offer to support you in learning new skills, meeting new people, and making a difference to others by helping them on their journey to welcome the return of summer.

We’re looking for lots of collaboration between performing groups, to create one big story, so we’d ask you to come in with flexible concepts, and some initial thoughts as to how your group might fit in with other groups, and this year’s Court.

Want to organise a production group?

Our unique festival couldn’t happen without its wonderful production groups. These have included:

  • Stewards, who 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.
  • Contact Point, who offer information and guidance to witnesses. We’re looking for outgoing people can help our witnesses understand our story and our ritual, and be a friendly (if strangely painted) face to all attending.
  • Tech, the wonderful people who help turn ideas into reality by creating the structures 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 heading off, they are the ones left to make sure that all it removed and safely packed away for next time.
  • Photo Point, the fabulous folk who capture us in all our splendour, immortalising the night in visual memories of photos and video.
  • We’re also on the hunt for volunteers to help us organise the after party 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, 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 out with 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!

What happens after you apply?

Once the deadline passes, the Board and Blues will consider all applications and together they will make a decision. In the case of more than one application to run specific groups, we will look at each individually and consider the needs of the festival to see if both can be viable. Some applicants may be invited in for a chat to talk about their application to help us reach a decision.

We will then notify everyone who applied of the decision about their application – aiming to notify everyone by email, on the same day as others are informed. Above all, we want the process to be open and transparent as we value all our volunteers in every capacity, and want everyone to feel supported throughout the process.

Full information on how the selection process works is set out here, in our GO Selection Process Samhuinn document.

GO for it!

So, do you fancy applying? Here are the documents you’ll need. Take inspiration from the overarching narrative procession of Beltane, look to various groups that have appeared before, and think of how to help welcome in the coming Summer! Let’s make our Beltane a night to be remembered!

Remember to get your application in by 10pm on Tuesday 18th February (updated for second round apps), and please do read the guidance – it contains information on dates you need to be available, how the festival will be run, deadlines and where to go for support or advice alongside guidance on what we’re looking for in a group application.

Lastly, got an idea that’s a bit different?

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 2020 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 submitting proposals is also 10pm on Tuesday 18th February – email them to festival[at]beltane[dot]org.

Proposals will be granted at the discretion of the Board, we may invite you for a short chat to discuss your idea to assist us in deciding how your proposal will link into the festival.

Good luck all – we’re excited to hear your ideas!

Featured image by Kasia Sowinska for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.

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