Beltane 2014 Stewards by Stephen Yu

Could you run Bower or Stewards this Beltane?

Stewards at Beltane 2015 by Martin McCarthy

Do you feel a call to welcome our community to the Bower as their journey about Calton Hill ends? Or do you have the skills to coordinate our team of volunteer stewards for the festival? We’re looking for folk who do!

Though the deadline for applications to run groups for Beltane has passed (and we’re VERY excited about the ideas that have been put forward), we’d like to add a couple of key components: Bower and Stewards.

So, we are reopening the application process briefly to specifically call for applications from those who may want to be volunteer group organisers for either of those two groups.

Apply by this Sunday

If you are interested in running either group (no others please – we have plenty already!), complete an application form and send it by 12 noon on Sunday 12 February, to festival [at] beltane [dot] org. You can find the forms and all the guidance about applications from the original shoutout; and if you want to chat with us before submitting a form, go ahead and email with your questions, we’re happy to help.

Here’s a little more information about the two groups we’re looking to find organisers for…

BOWER:

The home of our Hill, our community and the May Queen, the Bower is the space where the final ritual between Red and White is played out, a place of nourishment, safety, rest and joy. We’re calling for your vision to create this Sacred Hearth on the Hill, through creation of a magical space, and facilitation of this final aspect of our ritual, ending with a warm welcome extended to all – performers and witnesses alike.

As well as any creative and ritual joy you’d like to bring, we are very keen to make sure we have fire and warmth for all our performers in the space (as we did last year with lovely fire pits).

Bower is a key component of our festival, and we’d love you to step forward and make a home on the Hill for everyone!

STEWARDS:

Our unique festival couldn’t happen without the wonderful production groups like stewards – they are an essential presence for the event to take place.

The stewards facilitate the movement of performers around the Hill and dedicate their energy to the safety and happiness of all. We are looking for organisers to bring their dynamic personalities, as well as practical knowledge and experience – to help the event run smoothly and to make sure stewards and witnesses all have a great experience of our event.

Organising stewards is a great opportunity to be part of our festival and to develop and hone your own skills, personally and professionally. If you’re thinking of applying we encourage you to include amongst your GO team someone with relevant experience and/or skills, gained either inside or outwith BFS. We need you to help create the well-oiled machine that’s at the heart of our festival.

If you fancy running either group, we’d really love you to apply! The power to make these things happen lies with you…

Photo by Martin McCarthy

Opening the Bower

Some words from this year’s Bower and their experiences in the start of the Beltane preparations…

Arriving on the hill to locate our Bower and perform a ritual of opening, blessing and protection it was a wonderful surprise to find it full of Whites, walking a circle around its centre point. How perfect. Leaving White to it, we walked the route of the procession, pausing at each point where the May Queen traditionally stops to talk about what happens there, and why, what it reflects of the May Queen’s journey from a performance and a symbolic perspective, and the role of the other groups that traditionally meet the May Queen, especially that of Red and the elements. Fire Arch (Guardians of the Veil) and Red Slope were clearly points of great significance to group members which was clear in our moments of quiet reflection and will return to those points again.

Arriving ‘home’, cold and in deep reflection as a group, we took a break, broke bread together and then shared it with the Whites as they ended their practice, while passing round the next round of (frozen) bread dough to get White to ‘give it a chuck and wish it luck’. As White practice closed, we began our planned ritual for protection and well wishing, joined by two members of White (thanks) I say ‘planned’, meaning we agreed this would happen. What actually took place in deeply appropriate but unplanned solemnity, was a native Canadian style ritual led by one of our members who has long been accepted as a resident of a reservation in Canada.

She brought her ceremonial pouch, shaman stick, rattle and conch shell and smudged everyone present (meaning wafted smoke of burning sage leaves over people which helps make the energy space around our bodies clear and positive) and we poured and blessed water, each drank some, and poured it on the ground. The shaman stick with its beautiful carving, thread and feather decorations was pushed into the ground and in the space it left we each placed a pinch of tobacco, which we first held and concentrated our wishes that the Bower space and the whole hill be protected and blessed so that our work in the ceremony may have the most positive outcome for the land, the community, the city and the Earth. One member of the Bower also placed in the earth something personal which he had carried for a long time. We poured more water and stood in a ring in silence for a long time, and then, just because it felt right, we all joined our arms together and for a few minutes we had a sound bath, which ended when all the notes harmonised. We poured the second bowl of water at the entrance to the Bower (i.e. between the two trees which is the previous site of the heart of the Bower). We poured the water on a spot where we are told an amethyst heart was buried by previous Beltaners in around 2002.

By then it was cold and the light was fading, so off we went to the Regent for warm mulled wine (or tea!) and to meet other group members who couldn’t be with us for work. And we took some Whites with us and sat talking in the cosy pub until we were warm and well fed and it was time to go home.

Gifts from the dragon

Each group has been given a gift from the dragon of Guardians of the Veil.

Each group has been given an egg, and a set of instructions for them to use in their weekend away, and as part of their group.

Hopefully you will all see these at your group meetings and also at your weekend away. They look beautiful!

Dragon Eggs

Bower planning…with sunset and snow

Bower Planning in Sunset and Snow
Photo by Daniel Rannoch

As further proof that the Scottish weather doesn’t stop Beltaners from doing their thing, Marlies and Catriona, Group Organisers for Bower, wrapped up warmly and headed to Calton Hill for some planning and checking out their space for the festival.

These groups are still recruiting…for now!

BOWER
Bower will accept new members until this Thursday (14th March) and will then be closed.

The Bower is a physical place, a concept and a group of people, and we would love you to join us in supporting our Beltane community. We will invite all groups to ground themselves at Bower at the beginning of the night to prepare yourselves for the transformation to come. We will welcome you back home in the same space once the Bonfire has been lit. Bower will be there when you need us most. We will offer comfort, safety and sustenance in the form of food that we prepare for the other volunteers. We are a safe place if for any reason you need it. And we will provide the last little bit of energy needed for the final transformation and emergence into summer.

Contact Catriona and Marlies a line on bower@beltane.org


CONTACT POINT
Contact Point has room for 2 or 3 more members.

On the night, we seek to inspire an informed audience with information about the festival and BFS, handing out maps and info leaflets and answering questions, along with posting live social media posts of the action as it happens. We’re looking for shiny chatty people who love to talk! Our meetings are on Saturday afternoons.

Contact Tanya and Zander at contact@beltane.org


ELEMENTS
Elements will accept new members until this Saturday (16th March) and will then be closed.

Fire, Water, Earth, Air. What do they represent? Are they embodiments of natural forces or are they aspects of our own energies? The Elemental group will be exploring what the elements mean to us and what they mean for the Beltane story. We will bring balance and interact with diverse groups to create a vibrant performance on the hill with acrobatics galore.

Contact Alun and Seth at elements@beltane.org


FIRE PRIESTS
Fire Priests have room for 6-8 more people.

The Fire Priests worship at the alter of divine flame, we embody and worship it’s cleansing warmth. With costumes and faces to match our firey element, we will endeavour to show that fire can be dangerous, mesmerising, divine and beautiful. We will be creating some new variations on the traditional torch, adding some small parts of costume. We have two meetings a week, one a drop in social meeting on Thursday evenings in Art’s Complex and the main meeting to practice on Sunday afternoons on Calton Hill.

Contact David and Steven at firepriests@beltane.org


REMNANTS OF WINTER
Remnants of Winter will accept new members until this Saturday (16th March) and will then be closed.

As the last remnants of winter, we are stunned at the loss of our king and father. Our last duty is to escort our king to his last resting place. With this it will allow us to move into summer by casting off the stagnant winter energy. At this point we have a choice between remaining as winter in oblivion or follow summer into frivolity. Ultimately we follow summer but fully in the knowledge that winter will rise again. We meet on Saturday afternoons.

Contact Ross and Rachel at winter@beltane.org


STEWARDS
Stewards are still actively recruiting.

The Stewards are the friendly but firm face of Beltane. We welcome the audience onto the hill, informing and guiding, and keeping everyone safe and happy through this celebration of the transition from Winter to Summer. With the Fire Priests we form the liminal boundary which escorts the Royal Procession on its journey. As the line between the performers and audience, we also get the best view in the house.
If you haven’t got the time for making elaborate costumes or want to get your Beltane feet wet before jumping in head first, Stewards is the group for you. Our main training session is on Sunday afternoons on Calton Hill, with a more social session on Thursdays in Art’s Complex.

Contact John and Shyam at stewards@beltane.org


TECH
Tech are still recruiting.

Pots of Fire! Burning sculptures! Epic Stages! Tubs of Flapjacks! Tech are the stage crew behind the magic of Beltane. We are the fire proof suited, soot stained, frazzled looking folks who put it all together on the night. We build the stages, make the scuptures, soak the rope, prep the fuel, put out the fires and in the morning, pack it all away again. And all this powered by nothing more than tea and biscuits.

Contact Adam and Helen at tech@beltane.org


TELLERS OF BEL’S FIRE
Tellers will accept new members until this Saturday (16th March) and will then be closed.

The Tellers of Bel’s Fire will bring to life the third component of the Ceilidh culture (dance, music and storytelling) complementing the events’ dedication to ritual dance and music. Based on the Scottish Travellers’ proverb ‘Stories are told eye to eye, mind to mind, and heart to heart’, The Tellers will engage the audience prior to the start of the procession serving as a bridge between the real world and the ritual world of the Beltane performance. As the bridge between the two worlds, the Tellers will open the veil prior to the start of the procession, engage and interact directly with the audience, prior to, and during the procession. It is our task to draw the audience in and to educate them about the Beltane story, so that they, and the people they tell in turn, will have a better appreciation and understanding of the events that they will witness on the hill offering them both understanding and a connection to the evening’s events. Tellers will be meeting Wednesday evenings (18:30 – 20:30) and Saturdays (12-17:00)

Contact Trish and Fenland at tellers@beltane.org

Laura’s Group Organiser Story

Laura Jeacock shares her experiences as a Group Organiser for Beltane Fire Festival.

Laura at Bower, Beltane 2011, by Daniel Rannoch
Photo of Laura at Bower (Beltane 2011) by Daniel Rannoch

In 2011, I co-organised Bower with Zander Bruce. I cannot remember exactly the chain of conversation that lead to us sitting around my flat eating cake and frantically filling in the application (there was a lot of cake consumed in the process, as cake is the culinary manifestation of Love), but I know that the idea had been brewing since Air point in 2010.

I loved the idea that evolved, as Bower as the ending to the journey of Beltane and as a place of Love and Nurturing. We hoped that others would have liked to join us in working with this idea, and so we put in the application and turned up with a lot of cake to recruit at the Open Meeting.

Running a group was nothing really like I had expected, apart from the challenging bit – I thought it would be that. I am so glad that my co-GO was experienced and practical – I learned so much from him. It had its high and low points. I think one of the hardest things for us was to get the numbers that we needed – we were using every trick in the book to recruit people for the main Bower tasks, for helping pack up food bags, for musical input and to help hold the space. I think it was so hard to get numbers because Bower is not generally a performance group, but we had our own ritual and performance that required the numbers.

Another of the challenges that was faced was that of waning enthusiasm. Every group that I have been in has experienced this and it usually happens two or three weeks before the night, when everybody is stressed and has no time or energy. The best thing is to give people a night off and regroup later. With much cake. People are volunteers for Beltane and they cannot give their everything all of the time. Checking in and out with people at every meeting keeps the lines of communication open, so that you know if someone needed extra support one particular day. It is true for GOs too – I had an upsetting encounter with someone on the day of Beltane and I am so thankful that I had a network of people to support me for the time I needed.

Running a group made me realise how important community, and the connections we make with people, are. When our ideas were difficult to realise, someone from the group was able to pull in resources, whether it was extra hands for the night or music or moral support throughout. So when it came to the day and night of Beltane, we had all created a space that felt like home.

I am still very close with most of the the people who were in Bower that year (the Ninja Priestesses of Love!). The best bit about running this group was putting forward an idea and watching it and helping it get realised by the whole group. What I really like about Bower 2011 was that we really made an effort to get to know the groups we were feeding and formed a bond with them which extended to the ritual feeding of them on the night.

At the end of the evening we had a brief meeting and we all knew that it had gone well, and I could not have been prouder of everyone in the group!

Drinking horns and fringing

D and Zander from Bower sent some photos from their last workshop…

Bower is making! We still have space for creative people who want to join in the fun 🙂


Richard, Zoe and Alexandra making costumes (Zander out of shot)


Neil’s drinking horn production line (D behind the camera)

Groups still open to volunteers: BOWER

From Zander and D at Bower.

The Bower team are looking for a few more people to join and co-create a visually stunning and personally welcoming Bower space for Beltane 2012.

The Bower is at the end of the journey (the procession) and the beginning of the adventure (summer). It is where we offer rest and refreshment – it is also the Court for the May Queen and Green Man.

There are sets and costumes to be designed and made, food and preparation to be planned and munched and we’ll be having some workshop sessions on healing and mindfulness as well as whatever else the group wants to explore during the journey towards April 30th.

Meeting Sunday 4th March 11am at Art’s Complex, St Margaret’s House

For additional details/enquiries, please e-mail bower@beltane.org

Bower

Bower is the last section of the festival. We are the homecoming for the Court, where everyone is fed and watered, and where the King and Queen reign on their thrones. We are the nurturing element of nature.

This year, we are the reflection of the night sky. We are the eternal. We are shadows of ourselves.

Photo of Bower at a rehearsal by Ellen Duffy.