COVID safety and digital Samhuinn

In case you hadn’t heard, our digital Samhuinn celebration is tonight and we could not be more excited to share it with you. Our volunteers have been working very hard to create something that will help us mark the change of the seasons with the most fanfare we can muster in this strange year.

Before we kick things off tonight, we wanted to let you know a little about how we made the festival (and how we’ve responded to pandemic restrictions).

When lockdown first came about in March, we were forced to cancel our in-person Beltane Fire Festival and adapt to create a socially distanced performance. We needed to make sure not that not only were our audience safe, but our volunteers were too. We ended up with some fantastic creativity on display, where with some camera trickery and dabbling in remote working, we managed to pull off a full festival while working within quarantine restrictions. 

As lockdown restrictions began to ease, we hoped that our volunteers might be able to meet and rehearse in small numbers to put together our digital Samhuinn. The experiences of creating something together, being present with each other, and feeling part of a community are key to our volunteers’ participation in Beltane Fire Society, and we were keen to bring that back as much as we could within government guidelines. 

Our in-person festivals are put together by performance groups, who each represent a character or creature in the story and intermingle with each other as the narrative progresses. 

This digital festival, in a similar way, has been made up of what we call “pods”, which are much smaller groups that do not meet with other pods. Any “meetings” and collaborations have taken place online.

As restrictions have progressed over the past couple of months, so has the make-up of our pods. Only two households, with a maximum of six people, have been able to meet, and each pod member has been required to maintain a two-metre distance from other households within their pod. Masks and hand sanitizer were mandatory at each meeting.

At times, where pods have had to surpass that maximum of six people and two households – for example where a camera operator was required, or where multiple parts of one large pod have filmed in the same location – those pods have been further splintered. Two households would keep a two-metre distance from each other, while maintaining a six to eight metre distance from other parts of their pod (depending on the activity). 

This distance was decided upon following advice on how we could achieve zero COVID transmission in an outdoor setting. We’d like to thank Police Scotland, Scottish Government, Sports Scotland, and Athletics Scotland for offering us their expertise and time to ensure our volunteers’ safety.

Many of our pods have also been exclusively digital. The Global Sojourn, who you will see in the festival, is one example of a group that have collaborated across the world. We are thrilled that we have been able to foster a feeling of community by using digital tools in this way.

So there you have it. We have now created our second festival broadcast of the year, and we’ve done it with the mysterious magic of zoom lenses, putting people from the same household in pods together, and video editing. We’ve learnt a lot in the process, and we hope you enjoy what we’ve made.

Featured image by Sean Bluestone for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.

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