This evening will mark only the third occasion in recent history when the Beltane Fire Festival has not been celebrated on Calton Hill by the people of Edinburgh, Scotland and by those who have come from much further afield!
The last 14 months have been very difficult for so many people and as a community we have lost people we know and love. Many people have had to face financial hardship and have had to live with the uncertainty caused by the changing restrictions, anxiety inducing facts, figures and statistics. We have lost many aspects of individuality and the support mechanisms that many of us seek through face-to-face human relationships, interactions and contact.
The Beltane Fire Society, which I have been involved in for the last decade, emerged from a rekindling of the city’s rich Beltane tradition which had disappeared by the end of the 19th century. In 1988 our founding members lit the first spark and from it, on an annual basis*, people have become a community with this unique and ever evolving celebration at its centre, and with Calton Hill as its hearth and home.
Each year, as the fierce Beltane bonfire bursts into flame and the Beltane Toast is raised loudly into the night’s revelry; the society celebrates the coming of summer. The huge bonfire is, to me, a beacon of hope from our community to the global human kind and it gives me a chance to contemplate the Beltanes gone and those to come.
Those of you who have been there and felt the heat on your faces and bodies, who have been with us on the night and know of the kindred delights that dance around these flames; you will carry that spark and light in you as you mark the turning years. For those of you just beginning your Beltane Fire Society adventures; we can’t wait for you to join us in person, once it is possible again, but for now, welcome to the family, wherever you are!
As the Chair of the BFS Board of Trustees I am pleased to announce that we have been successful in our application to the Scottish Government’s Events Industry Support Fund 2, managed by Visit Scotland. We have been awarded £20,000 in emergency funding, which will contribute towards our annual running costs which are normally supported through ticket sales and donations from our events. Our annual running costs are not covered entirely by this grant, and therefore we encourage those who can afford to, to make a donation through our ethical ticketing partner Citizen Ticket.
This essential grant has certainly strengthened our financial position, but with the ongoing uncertainty we have decided we cannot take on the organisation of a new public facing summer festival, as was discussed at the AGM. We are currently considering ideas for community events which might be possible in late summer. In the coming months the board and blues in consultation with the beltane community and events industry experts will be discussing options and ultimately making a pragmatic decision for Samhuinn Fire Festival 2021.
I would like to thank the outgoing Trustees: Alex, Brad and Shae, who stood down from their BFS board roles at the AGM, for their hard work over the years and for their assistance in handing over their remits and their continuing dedication to the society. Thanks also to the Blues, Trustees and Contractors who have been working hard for the society, facilitating the community in creating the festival in ways we never could have imagined previously. To you the members who have pulled this festival together, who have continued to engage with the Society through AGMs, EGMs and digital happenings, we cannot exist without you.
With Beltane 2021 the society and the global community are once again pulling out the stops to put on a festival like no other. Our 8th May Queen, Rosa, joins us for her first trip round the hill, albeit a virtual journey around a digital hill, to join with the Green Man, Rosamund, in this; the second year of a remote Beltane. Our dedicated and creative volunteers and collaborators are joining forces around the world to create shared community experiences, as well as unique original content for tonight’s presentation, to which I extend to you this invitation. They have come up with beautiful concepts, connected volunteers with one another, with nature and with Beltane.
We warmly welcome you to our virtual festival brought to you in the safety and comfort of your own home. Beltane Fire Society is a registered charity, and in a year like no other we need your support to ensure that we eventually return our festival to its home on the hill. Attendance for our virtual event is free, or if you’re in a position to do so, by donation, which can be made via our official ticketing partner Citizen Ticket.
Chair of the Trustees.
*except for in 2003 and 2020