Could you be a Group Organiser for Samhuinn 2020?

The wheel has continued to turn during this topsy-turvy year and our festivals have been experienced in a new dimension. Samhuinn 2020 is following suit and will play out in a digital space on Saturday 31st October.

This time the lockdown is (hopefully) not so severe, so as long as it’s done safely you’ll be able to make outdoor performances with groups of up to 5 households (see details on “Pods” below)”.

We need our storytellers, performers, musicians, devisers, animators, artists and mischief-makers to help us tell the story of Samhuinn. We’re shouting out to our community around the world to help us create a new imagining of the Winter festival. 

This is our invitation to those of you who want to see their ideas and visions become reality, sharing your time and creativity with us as a volunteer group organiser (aka GO). 

After reading the following information carefully, if you’d like to apply please download the Guidance Information, Example Application Form, and Application Form which are linked at the bottom of this post. Complete and send the form to us at festival[at]beltane[dot]org.

The deadline for Group Organiser applications is 10pm on Friday 28th August.

What is Samhuinn?

Samhuinn is the celebration and recognition of the transition of Summer into Winter. Our festival is a modern reimagining of this ancient Celtic celebration of the turning seasons, and this year will be taking place in a digital space to ensure the safety of celebrants, witnesses, and performers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The goddess in Her Crone form (known as Cailleach) will reveal Herself, tipping the balance from Summer into the dark half of the year. This enables Winter to advance whilst ensuring the spirit of Summer is protected to be born anew next year. 

Built from the ideas of the community and Group Organisers, there are differences in the way the story is told from year to year, turn to turn. There is lots of room for interpretation and creativity… and fire (although read on for some more details about that).

Do I have to be local to Edinburgh to take part?

This will be our third festival delivered digitally. Last year we were up on Calton Hill and we want to keep the spirit of that celebration in our offering this year. The range of locations and venues for your contribution is endless, so as long as you stay within the Scottish Government’s official guidelines (and are mindful of fire restrictions!). 

For the first time ever, we’ll be welcoming contributions from outside Edinburgh, and even countries outside the UK.

We also have plans afoot to pass our torchie fire across green spaces in Edinburgh (and perhaps beyond!), we’ll tell you more about that later in the run-up.

Want to organise a performance group (or pod)?

We’ve coined a new name for our groups during this pandemic – pods. As a pod GO you will have the opportunity to turn your vision into a reality with a group of volunteers working together to make this Samhuinn a fantastically unforgettable celebration. We’re calling on the drummers, dancers, acrobats, fire spinners, musicians, videographers, spirits, torchbearers, hunters, wild beasts, roaming fairies, hags, mythical creatures and all the rest! 

With our move into a digital realm, our performance pods have the opportunity to explore different aspects of the Samhuinn story not usually offered. Your pods may still align themselves to the Summer or Winter Court and communicate their acceptance or resistance to the turning of the seasonal wheel… or even just meddle mischievously! 

There is also room for groups that diverge from the main story. We are looking for video contributions which are pre-recorded and are open to discussion on the possibility of live feed performances.

As the organiser of a performance pod, your role will involve engaging, organising and training volunteers, developing a story within the Samhuinn story arc, and creating (along with your pod’s volunteers) the props, costumes, choreography, music, and rhythms that will give body and voice to our festival. In return we can offer you support as you learn new skills, meet new people, and help others on their journey to welcome the onset of Winter.

You might choose to film a socially distanced performance together, do some fire spinning, puppetry, an animation, storytelling, or a song – anything we can share digitally which communicates our Samhuinn traditions. But don’t let these suggestions limit your imagination! Just keep in mind that we have a tighter turnaround than usual, so your ideas will need to be achievable within that time frame. 

New to this year are COVID-safe restrictions that must be part of the foundation and activity of each pod – restrictions that may in turn require additional storytelling creativity:

  • Pods can work remotely or in-person reflecting individuals comfort, shielding and self-isolation levels.
  • In-person pods meeting outside will be restricted to 5 households (MAXIMUM OF 15 PEOPLE).
  • In-person pods meeting inside will be restricted to 3 households (MAXIMUM OF 8 PEOPLE – including those in the host household)
  • Remote pods, allowing people shielding, quarantining or even living abroad to participate, will not have group number restrictions.


We will accept collaboration between performing groups to create links between the stories vignettes as long as they adhere by these guidelines.

A note about tech

A really exciting part of this Samhuinn is our ability to have some of the usual in-person bonding and community spirit in the run up to the festival, but we still want you to keep in mind that the end product is digital. 

When you are formulating your groups, please try as much as you can to involve someone with filming, video editing, or audio expertise (depending on what you’re sending us to include in the final broadcast). If you don’t know anyone with those particular skills, let us know in your application and we can help you find a digital minded person to collaborate with. 

What happens after I apply?

The Board and Blues will consider all applications once the deadline has passed and make a decision together. In the case of more than one application to run specific groups, or styles of presentations, 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 for a video or telephone chat to discuss their application and help us reach a decision.

We will then notify all applicants of our decisions, aiming to contact everyone by email and all on the same day. Above all, we want our process to be open and transparent as we value all our volunteers, whatever their capacity with us, and want everyone to feel as supported as possible through the process.

You must be able to attend our Open Meeting on Sunday 13th September. We will ask each GO to send us a 30 second video explanation of their group for us to show at the Open Meeting – please don’t work too hard on this, a rough and ready snapshot will suffice!

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

* Please note there may be some temporary selection process adjustments to accommodate pandemic social distancing requirements as well as the move to an online festival.

GO for it!

So, do you fancy applying? Here are the documents you’ll need. Make sure to read them in detail – there are some important guidelines around managing safety and social distancing!

  • GO Guidance PDF
  • Group Application Form PDF DOCX ODT
  • Group Application Form – In Person Group Example PDF
  • Group Application Form – Digital Group Example PDF

Remember to get your applications in by 10pm on Friday 28th August!

Lastly – Got an idea that’s a bit different (even though what we’re doing is going to be seriously different than in previous years…)?

Our community is bursting with creativity and imagination. If the past five months of lockdown and loosening lockdown have got you bursting to get rid of mental cobwebs, and:

  • you are an experienced BFS festival participant, 
  • you have an idea that you want to make a reality as part of our 2020 festival even though it doesn’t fit with a group structure or necessarily require other volunteers

please do get in touch at festival[at]beltane[dot]org to request more information.

Proposals will be granted at the discretion of the Board and we may invite you for a short virtual chat to discuss your idea and 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 Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.

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