We can’t quite believe it either, but we dare to hope that our fiery celebration and pageant will be able to return to Edinburgh’s Old Town, on Sunday 31st October this year!
Info for Participants: Beltane Fire Society’s festivals are created by our volunteers, and this year is no exception. Because of the ongoing pandemic and the continuing uncertainty surrounding events, we may have to be more prescriptive than usual. Like our very earliest festivals, this Samhuinn will be performed as a parade, with little or no static performance. Some specific roles may be restricted to smaller groups or closed groups, though we will endeavour to make space for all comers. We’d also like to hear from volunteers with concepts for digital content, which will both run alongside the physical festival and allow an alternative space for our creations, if restrictions on gatherings are re-introduced. We’re also hoping to livestream from the city centre on the night (technical and weather gremlins permitting).
See our celebration in person: Parade witnesses in physical attendance must register in advance by getting a ticket (tickets will be by donation, with a limited number available). Spectators will be informed where and when they must be in order to watch the parade pass by; you will not be permitted to follow the parade down the road. Access for residents and businesses will not be affected.
Ticket bookings to be announced. Suggested donation: £10 per ticket, £5 BFS members and low-income. Under-12s PWYF.
See us online: if you can’t make it in person, or prefer not to, then make yourself cozy at home, and watch the parade as it wends its way through the city. We will be livestreaming the festival, as well as featuring some newly created digital content from some of the groups & key characters, and from our new global digital community.
The livestream will be recorded as it goes out – so if signal is lost or the service isn’t maintained, there will be opportunities to watch it again later!
We are now accepting nominations, including self-nominations, for the roles of Cailleach, Summer King & Winter King for Samhuinn 2021.
The deadline for Cailleach nominations is 5pm, 21st July. Please be free to attend an interview between 22 and 25 July.
The deadline for Kings nominations is 5pm, 28th July. Please be free to attend an interview between 29th July and 1 August.
Tuesday 3rd August, 6pm – 7pm – pre GO meeting (remotely) – this replaces the pub meet we used to do if you are considering being a GO and want to ask questions. GO applications to be announced soon!
Samhuinn is a time of the changing of the seasons, of the change over between summer and winter, a time when the veil draws thin and the spirits draw closer to us. This year we are returning to the city centre, the exact route is being agreed presently. However, the emphasis will be on a simple procession (no stages) where all the characters carry out their performance while processing. The original idea of holding the procession centrally was to be visible in the city, in view of historic and establishment structures, and to bring our celebrations to those who find it easier to attend in town. Samhuinn this year, after too long apart from each other and our city, brings it back.
Our Samhuinn festival has its roots in medieval street theatre, the traditions of all Hallow’s Eve with puppets and larger than life characters. The Cailleach Bheur, our native dark hag giantess/goddess, the queen of winter, leads her fiery lively Seelie Summer Court of fae, musicians, drummers and those grown older since Beltane. The rear of the procession is the foreboding, dark and fiery Unseelie Winter Court, drummers, winter fire, Wild Hunt and other powerful winter forces who signal the change that is yet to happen.
The Samhuinn aspect of the Green Man is a Summer King who is still vital and strong, yet now older having been overgrown in Autumn. The Winter King reflects nature’s role as protector of wild deer and other animals; he is the Cailleach’s consort.
The Winter King takes control of the seasons from the Summer King, overseen by the Cailleach, whose grief and sorrow at the death of summer brings forth the darkness and storms of winter. It is a time for celebration, summer’s last gasp of opulent decadence, but also a time of icy bleakness – the finality of winter’s arrival and the hard months ahead.
SOME PRACTICAL NOTES
Applications from people of all genders, physical abilities, ages, races and socio-economic statuses are welcome. The potential to embody the role is the essential quality we seek. You do not have to fit an image or profile of previous role holders. Potential candidates sometimes deselect because they don’t feel they fit a profile based on people who’ve taken the role in the past. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as we can only select from those who step forward or are nominated.
Notes of interest should be formally submitted to Blues(at)Beltane.org by 5pm on the deadline day. Please feel free to share something short about what draws you to the role, or what inspired you to nominate the person you nominate.
Candidates should be available to take part in person, in Edinburgh, for a physical festival, as well as submit a digital element (even a simple one).
There will be no stage, or ‘cabaret-style’ performance which was previously held in Parliament Square. We are still in discussions over what we’re permitted to do, where the parade will start, and what happens at the end. However, for now we are planning on completing all the Court performances during the procession.
Given the lack of staging, it may be that no witnesses past the front few rows would see the Cailleach and Kings’ finale, unless the performers are individually elevated. With this in mind, we’re looking for a Cailleach who’s happy to reference the original format of our performance, where the Cailleach was a giantess. This could be done using any means (e.g. being physically raised up by some means, using stilts, being a giant puppet – your imagination is the limit) to make the Cailleach appear larger than life. The Cailleach may have to unveil and complete all her transitions during a moving procession, so only those who feel comfortable with this should apply.
We are also looking for Kings who are happy to take steps to ensure that their final scene, which may have to be completed in a moving procession, is elevated and “larger than life” (e.g. by being raised, or using puppetry or stilts) so that it can be seen in a flat place.
As ever, we welcome joint applications for both Summer and Winter Kings, or solo applications for either role.
We are working hard to establish guidelines on COVID safety for our performers, our witnesses and our supporting roles. While we don’t want this aspect to dominate at this stage, there will be requirements that are in line with Scottish Government guidelines. These are likely to include caps on numbers, limited inter-group collaborations, regular testing (using lateral flow tests), physical distancing, keeping any indoor spaces well ventilated, wearing face coverings in enclosed areas, and washing of hands and surfaces.
For any questions about court applications, contact volunteers(at)beltane.org or blues(at)beltane.org .
Header photo copyright Mark Taylor for Beltane Fire Society, All rights reserved.