The Beltane Fire Society is run by a volunteer Board of Trustees who oversee the year-round operation of the organisation. The Society is funded entirely by donations through its membership and from Beltane Fire Festival ticket sales. We receive no donations from any public funds. Beltane Fire Society is a not-for-profit registered charity in Scotland. Charity Number SC040137. Company Number SC341753. You can find Beltane Fire Society’s charity details on OSCR’s website here.
Our charitable objectives are:
- to advance the education of the general public in the traditions of the Celtic lunar calendar fire festivals and their relevance to contemporary culture.
- to further an awareness of and promote participation in the Scottish traditions of street theatre, music and pageantry.
- to advance the performing arts through the development of skills in professional performance and production within a cooperative and collaborative environment.
The Origins of the Society
The first Beltane Fire Festival was created in 1988, led by Angus Farquhar (now of NVA) – and the formation of the society occurred to support the continuation of the festival a few years later. The Society’s aim was to create a sense of community, an appreciation of the cyclical nature of the seasons and a human connection to the environment – something that is often overlooked in our modern urban life. Since that time the society has kept the Festival alive and has helped it grow into the internationally recognised event that it has now become. All of Beltane Fire Society’s administrative tasks take place at 16 East Cromwell Street in Edinburgh, where it’s office is also located. Many of the group meetings and workshops take place around the city.
With the exception of a couple of roles (Event Co-ordinator, Health & Safety) we are a community of volunteers. Membership in the Society is gained through participation in either the Beltane or Samhuinn Fire Festivals and a member continues to be so until 3 years of non-festival-participation has passed, though lapsed members are always considered to be part of the community, wherever they are in the world. The Beltane Fire Society encourages every active member to take a role in its development and the events that it organises. Each year every position on the Board is available by vote and those positions are open to any member of the Society. The vote takes place during the annual general meeting (AGM) which the Society holds for its membership. All members of the Society are entitled to vote in the AGM so everyone has a part in choosing who leads the Society forwards.
Many of our members have no professional experience in the areas they volunteer in. We try to draw on the skills that have been built within our community and then use these skills to train people so that our community continues to evolve. While much of our focus is on the two main festivals we also run workshops and events outside our festival calendar to help keep the membership involved all year-round.
The Event Co-ordinator
It has become necessary to ensure that there is dedicated support for volunteers since the growth of the Festival from its small following to being an event attended by thousands. That support is provided by the Event Co-ordinator who sources possibilities for the Society to make savings with it’s suppliers, create paths towards new members and expand opportunities with its existing membership. For the big events the Event Co-ordinator manages the daily tasks of creating a large, public festival. Their job involves the acquisition of infrastructure, negotiation with public bodies such as the City of Edinburgh Council, budgets and legal requirements among many, many other things.
In keeping with Celtic tradition the history of the Festival is maintained mainly through storytelling. Beltane lore is held by the Blues, a respected group of the society’s ‘old hands’ who build the stories through their considerable experience in participation and involvement in the Beltane Fire Society.
You, The Audience
As long as the Society has existed so have you, our audience, our witnesses. You are as big a part of our story as the festivals themselves. The festivals were created for you, and you us you are considered participants in the event. We couldn’t finish our story of our society without you being a part of it
So, much like the mighty oak, it can be seen that the Beltane Fire Society has grown from small beginnings to grandeur. We are proud of what we have become and we work hard to maintain that link between the past and the present, the man-made and the natural and the solemn and the theatrical and we hope that what we do helps to enrich the already fantastical scene of the city of Edinburgh.
Featured image by Daniel Rannoch for Beltane Fire Society