We did it folks. We’ve nearly made it through another Winter, and the first glimmers of a warmer season are beginning to show themselves in our lengthening days. That means it’s time for us to assemble the performance groups who will make up the story at this year’s Beltane Fire Festival.
If you’re hoping to join in the fun at this year’s festival, browse through the first look at our performance and production groups below. You can find out more about each one and sign up to take part at our next Open Meeting, which is on Sunday 1st March at 13:30 in Leith Theatre.
When you initially sign up to one of our groups, whether by email or at the Open Meeting, we will collect your name and email address so our Group Organisers can keep in touch with updates directly related to your voluntary engagement. We will not use your information for any other purpose without first asking for your consent and we will not share your email with external organisations.
Have a read through the descriptions, requirements, and rehearsal times below before this weekend to see which group you think you would fit best into.
- Fuaim Catha (Call horn)
- Guth nam Bo
- Photo Point
- Processional Drummers
Organisers: Danielle Christie, Craggles (Craig) Macauley and Andy Murray
What’s that crawling over the hill? Is it a Beastie?? It is a Beastie!!
Creatures of insatiable curiosity and boundless joy, we have been stirred to wakefulness by the dawning Summer months. We drum to the renewed heartbeat that pulses through the land – we don’t control the beat, but we wrap our own songs around it, play with it, and show our love for it.
Beasties are active from the moment they are roused on the hill, through the rediscovery of their drums and voices, and past the climactic death and rebirth of the Green Man. Even when we finally put down our instruments, it’s to gorge ourselves on and dance before the blazing warmth of the bonfire.
WE ARE EXCITED!! ARE YOU EXCITED??
Does any of this appeal to your own inner beast? Do you want more drums in your life? Have you never drummed before, but fancy trying your hand at it? Do you like RED??? Then maybe we are the zoo… Err, I mean group for you!
Open Practices: Monday 2nd March at 7.00pm – 10.00pm in The Bongo Club, Wednesday 4th March at 7.00pm – 10.00pm in The Bongo Club, Sunday 8th March at 12:30pm starting on Meadows then 2.00pm – 5.00pm in The Bongo Club
We expect attendance to as many of these dates as members can manage – please speak to us if you have any concerns about availability, and we will see what can be done to accommodate your needs.
Closed rehearsals: Wednesdays at 7.00pm – 10.00pm in The Bongo Club, Sundays at 12:30pm starting on Meadows then 2.00pm – 5.00pm in The Bongo Club (additional closed practice Thursday 12th March at 7.00pm – 10.00pm, location TBC)
Mandatory Wild Camping Weekend: Friday 3rd April – Sunday 5th April
Organisers: Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, Peter Bain
Bower are those that care for and provide a welcome home on the hill, whose hearth and
waters give succour to the creatures of Beltane Night. It is where all of Beltane return to
rejuvenate and rejoice and where our May Queen and Green Man hold court.
Woodland creatures who have been hidden or hibernating through the winter we will awaken
on receipt of the Neid fire to find that the winter months have littered and cluttered our space
with debris, fallen and abandoned things. We will create and interact with “found” objects
turning these into decorations. Bower are the caretakers, tea-givers, artists, and more, who
rediscover and repurpose left materials in order to reinvigorate the space with life and
promise once more.
Individual character and movement will be developed which can then create space for
witness interaction. Would suit people who would like to develop some physical storytelling
and making things. We will be looking for people able to help with set up and de-rig on April
30th and May 1st, however we are also a lower commitment group and aim to be as
accessible as possible to the physical and other needs of our members.
Open Practices: Saturday March 7th 4:30-5:30pm, and Thursday March 12th 7-9pm at the
Goblinhold in Newington (please email us for address details).
Closed Practices: Sundays 2-5pm varyingly on the hill or at the Goblinhold depending on
needs of group members (important to attend as many as possible), Thursdays 7-9pm at the
Goblinhold (crafting, mask making, mandatory to attend at least 3 to ensure enough time to
create masks and sundries).
Away weekend: Staycation April 4th-5th
Fuaim Catha (Call horn)
Organisers: Ross Atkinson and Tamara Piddock
The call horn is the first sound on the Hill on the night of Beltane. At sundown, its notes reverberate across the festival, waking all the otherworldly creatures who have come to visit and rousing the Processional drummers to pick up their instruments. This year the Fuaim Catha will be inspired by ancient Pictish imagery in keeping with our Celtic roots.
We are looking for: roughly 2-4 people who are up for opening the festival with gusto. We are a low commitment group.
Organisers: James Armandary, Jude Sevestre, Stew Wilson
When Beltane comes, the Fae come out to play. Finally you will see what has been there all along, and you can join us to celebrate the merging of the otherworldly and mortal realms. Be aware though that we are the tricksters, and we do not necessarily have your best interest in mind…
We are not allies of Winter or Summer. We are the allies of a continuing story, of the seasons changing. We’re here to witness and join the celebration on the hill, and though we want the story to go ahead, we might try to make it just a little bit harder.
We will celebrate with many loud and danceable drum rhythms. As a group, we also represent Fire Point in this festival, and intend to have many of our group members spinning fire at different points throughout the performance.
We’re looking for drummers (experienced and new) who can commit to working hard on making drumming look easy. Additionally, we are looking for a few drummers who would also like to do some fire performance, preferably with some fire experience. What could go wrong, right?!
Open Practices: Monday 2nd March at 7.00pm – 10.00pm in The Bongo Club, Wednesday 4th March at 7.00pm – 10.00pm in The Bongo Club, Sunday 8th March at 1.00pm – 5.00pm in The Bongo Club
Closed rehearsals: Wednesdays 7.00pm – 10.00pm and Sundays 1.00pm – 5.00pm in The Bongo Club
Mandatory away weekend: Friday 27th – Sunday 29th March
Guth nam Bo (Voice of the Cattle)
Organisers: Rosie Smith, Eli Roth, and Nicky Saunders
The Guth nam Bo are a Gaelic singing group who embody the cattle that were so central to old Beltane traditions. At ancient incarnations of our festival, Celtic communities would light two bonfires from one sacred Neid fire and drive their livestock between them. The Neid fire was believed to be a purifying flame, which would cleanse the cattle of disease and ensure the community’s good fortune for the coming months. At Beltane Fire Festival, the Guth nam Bo raise their voices with joy at the coming warm months and remind us of the rituals that inspired our contemporary celebration.
Open Practices: Monday 2nd March from 6.00pm – 8.00pm in The Kilderkin, Thursday 5th March 6.00pm – 8.00pm in Love Peace and Coffee
Closed rehearsals: Mondays from 6.00pm – 8.00pm in The Kilderkin, Thursdays 6.00pm – 8.00pm in Love Peace and Coffee
Away weekend: TBC
Organisers: Bob Ball and Dougie Dalgleish
Nathrach are the sacred snakes of earth! In Spring, we emerge from the underworld with soft volcanic fire, taking after the chthonic serpents of healing and prophecy. At the same time, we are the snakes of the world waking up from hibernation – ready to shed our skins, dance and mate. And eat mice.
If you join our group, you can expect themes of kindness, humour, and considerable wiggling. We want to take our love of the natural world and project it into a joyful spectacle. On the night, we will perform a few wee rituals, belly-dance, dance with fire, and cart about a big puppet. Over the course of rehearsals, we will teach you to dance with fire and make that great big puppet, while you get yourself into the mindset of a serpent. The ritual and spirituality component of this group is what you want it to be.
We are looking for: This is a high commitment group, with a three hour and four hour rehearsal every week. You’ll need to invest time into this, but we will immerse you (safely) into what Beltane is all about. We’re looking for chaotic, wise, healing souls, people who love bringing joy to those around them and also love snakes. You don’t need experience to join us. We welcome members of any age and ability level, because we want to break you free from the shackles of society and express yourself truly (consensually). We would love for anyone with puppetry experience to join, for obvious reasons, but this is not essential. Meditations will be intense, but are optional.
Open Practices: Wednesday 4th March from 7.00pm and Saturday 7th March from 2.00pm next to The Pavilion cafe on the Meadows. Dress warm!
Closed rehearsals: Wednesdays from 7.00pm (indoor, Leith) and Saturdays from 6.00pm (outdoor, Meadows)
Mandatory away weekend: Camping evening from Saturday 28th to Sunday 29th March. We’re flexible as to whether it’s wild, has facilities, or is a staycation kind of deal. If performers join who cannot wild-camp for whatever reason, we will restructure what we’re doing to fit.
Organisers: Vince Graham and Gordon Veitch
Photo and video group capturing the splendour of the festival in its entirety. We aim to produce pictures/video of the groups from rehearsals through to the two Walkthroughs and the night of the festival.
This group is closed
Organisers: Aindrea Bell and Will Ferguson
Who are we? We are the faceless, known only by sound, we are the beat of change that flows through the procession, we are the spirit of the carnival, the faceless joy that comes with smashing drums in a syncopated manner. You can’t explain it but once you’ve done it, you’ve done it and now you want to do more of it and everyone around you is also doing it, and they have no faces too, and as you look around at all the people with faces having a good time you will know that it was totally worth it as you are no longer a person simply a faceless syncopated corporeal mass of sound. In short, we are the (insert swear a word which is inappropriate for sharing with general media outlets) Processional drummers.
Open Practices: Friday 6th March from 7.00pm – 10.00pm in Coloursound, Saturday 7th March from 2.00pm – 5.00pm in The Bongo Club, and Sunday 8th March from 5.00pm – 9.00pm in Coloursound
Closed rehearsals: Fridays from 7.00pm – 10.00pm and Sundays from 5.00pm – 9.00pm (1 hr hour outside)
Mandatory away weekend: Friday 27th – Sunday 29th March (weather dependent, date may change)
Organisers: Carolina Krödel, Katharina Wegerer, and Rachael Davidson
We are RED.
We are the children of Summer, born on Beltane night into a world that is forever full of wonder which we long to explore. It’s easy to think that the world is dark, frightening and hopeless. Reds can remind us that there is good and beauty as well. We are joyful and bouncy creatures, embodiments of summer, passionate and open to the world. We’re fuelled by a childlike curiosity and love for this Earth and for each other, playful and bammy or curled up and cosy, babbling excitedly or watching intensely.
We remind others of the approaching Summer and warm nights, of energy and life, because that is what we are. We will interact with the audience and many of the other groups, especially the Beasties, our kin and our heartbeat, and the Whites, who fascinate and baffle us with their strength and grace.
We’re looking for: We believe there is a bit of Red in everyone, and we want to be there when you find yours!
Reds are a high-commitment, high-intensity group. We will be doing acrobatics, physical conditioning and lots and lots of character work to help you explore your Red and express your Red energy. Open to anyone and everyone who wants to find their Red!
Open Practices: Wednesday 4th March at 7.00pm – 10.00pm at Red Point on the Meadows, Thursday 5th March 7.00pm-10.00pm at Red Point on the Meadows, Sunday 8th March 12.00pm – 5.00pm at Red Point on the Meadows
Closed rehearsals: Wednesdays 7.00pm – 10.00pm and Sundays 12.00pm – 5.00pm at Red Point on the Meadows
Mandatory away weekend: Friday 3rd – Sunday 5th April (with the Beasties)
Organisers: Ross Cameron and Andy MacLeod
We are the friendly painted face of the Beltane Fire Festival. We work with the production crew, emergency services, and performing groups to ensure everyone has a safe and joyful Beltane. While we are not a performance group per se, we do assume the roles of the guardians of sacred spaces, and work closely with performers to help audiences understand the significance of the celebrations and performances they will witness so they can make the most of their experience, as well as offering them protection from the fires of Beltane.
We are looking for people of all backgrounds and levels of experience, and joining Stewards is a great introduction to Beltane for anyone who hasn’t participated in a festival before. We are a fairly low-commitment group, and while we encourage all members to attend as many practices as possible, we understand that sometimes real-world responsibilities may prevent this. We will be teaching stewarding skills, including crowd management and interaction, as well as storytelling and fire safety. While most of the Steward roles will involve walking across uneven ground in the company of performers, we are able to accommodate members with limited mobility and would welcome private discussion about any specific issues.
Open Practices: Our first practice will be with the Torchbearers on Calton Hill on Sunday 8th March from 2.00pm – 4:30pm.
Rehearsals: Calton Hill on Sunday afternoons, times may vary.
Away weekend: TBC
Organisers: Peter Jackson and Daniel Rylatt
In the run up to Beltane we build fire sculptures and props for groups, preparing everything to be taken to the Hill. In the days immediately before and on the day, we prepare Calton Hill for the festival – building stages and decorating the hill, as well as setting up the fencing, crowd barriers, toilets and lighting. During the event, as well as looking after the safety of our audience and performers, we run the neid fire to the key points, making sure all the performers have the light and toys they need and maybe even fire some pyrotechnics. At the end of the event and on the day after we take it all down again.
We’re looking for people who like to build stuff, make stuff, paint stuff, and who look great in an orange boiler suit. Although some tech tasks involve heavy lifting and carrying there are many roles and task that don’t. There is flexibility to support volunteers within any limitations they might have. For example if group member wouldn’t have energy to help with the build, show and take down then they could do one of these and help with the prep days.
Meet ups: Sunday afternoons in Beltonia, starting Sunday 8th March from 2.00-4.00pm
Away weekend: TBC
Organisers: Feòrag Forsyth and Graeme McCallum
The Torchbearers will provide the light for the festival, with their traditional black cloaks and (mostly) stoic manner. This includes the essential ritual element, the Neid fire, and working with the other groups to illuminate their performances and consolidate their stories.
We’re looking for people of all experience levels who may not have have vast amounts of time to dedicate to the festival this year. This is also a great introduction to Beltane for new, unacquainted members. Regular practices will include practical training in carrying a burning torch safely. Some of the practices will include workshops for activities such as making torch balls, torch ball soaking, fire practices, and costuming.
Open Practices: Thursday 5th March from 7.00pm in The Kilderkin side room, Thursday 12th March from 7.00pm in the Pavilion Cafe on the Meadows
Closed rehearsals: Thursday evenings and Sunday evenings
Away weekend: TBC
Organisers: Iga Sobieraj and Aleks Pawlik
Veles are a group occupying the borderlands between our world and the next. Aligned both with fire and with earth. They guard the portal between realms that the Green Man and May Queen must cross on their journey – our Fire Arch. In the liminal space between the spirit and the human worlds on this special night, these shamanic beings bring protection and blessings of fertility to all who encounter their fiery dance.
Veles is fire performance. A lot of fire toys.
Veles is paint, costumes and masks, exploring playing a different aspect of yourself in character.
Veles is dancing by the flames of our toys and sculptures.
Veles is hitting drum and playing with shakers for your fellow performers to dance to.
Veles is mingling with, bamming up and delighting the audience.
We are open to all and are looking for those that are keen to come play. There’s no minimum skill cap, all are welcome.
Open rehearsals: Thursday 5th March from 6.00pm – 10.00pm at St. Margaret’s House (Room G25) and Sunday 8th March from 1.00pm at the far east (Tollcross) of Meadows.
Closed rehearsals: Thursdays from 6pm in St Margaret’s House and Sundays from 1pm in the Meadows
Mandatory away weekend: TBC
Organisers: Dima Nowarah and Emmi Sipponen
Whites embody and channel the energies and emotions of the earth. We are the spark that fuels our May Queen on Her journey through the seasons and all its raging elements. A manifestation of resilience, grace, precision, lightness of spirit, hope and emotional maturity, we find ourselves bound to the earth with our May Queen and willingly take it on ourselves to follow and protect Her as She embarks on Her journey on Beltane night.
Our process during rehearsals is one of self-exploration and finding a deeper connection with the ritual of Beltane. Practices will be workshop-based and centred around movement, stillness, choreography and character work. We will not look to explore Whites through preassigned roles or gendered perspectives, but as the cosmic energy that unites us all, regardless of material or physical constraints.
We are looking for members who want to actively contribute to our shared journey and experience and bring unique skills and creative ideas to our group. No previous experience is necessary, though we ask that our members come with open and committed hearts. We are a challenging, high-commitment group. We expect our members to attend most, if not all practices. Due to the nature of our performance, members must be able to follow a choreographed procession. If you have any accessibility needs please speak to us about how we can best accommodate.
Open Practices: Wednesday 4th March at 7.30pm – 9.30pm on the Meadows, Saturday 7th March from 1.00pm – 3.00pm on Calton Hill and Sunday 8th March from 1.00pm – 3.00pm on Calton Hill
Closed rehearsals: Wednesdays 7.30pm – 10.00pm and Sundays 12.00pm – 4.00pm
Mandatory away weekend: Friday 27th to Sunday 29th March
Featured image by Kasia Sowinska for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.