Beltane Fire Society is a volunteer-run organisation that puts on two fire festivals each year in Edinburgh’s city centre, Beltane Fire Festival on 30 April and Samhuinn Fire Festival on 31 October. Both events offer a modern interpretation of the original Celtic festivals by celebrating the turning of the seasons with a vivid display of fire, drumming, and acrobatics. Information about our next festival, Samhuinn Fire Festival 2018, will be posted on our website nearer the time.
Beltane Fire Society
- Does BFS receive public funds?
- I want to set up my own festival. Can I use the BFS name?
- Can BFS help me set up my own festival or event?
- Are all the characters in BFS performances traditional Celtic or Scottish characters?
Getting Involved and Taking Part
- Can anyone take part in BFS events?
- I’d like to take part in Beltane Fire Festival – when do rehearsals begin?
- I’d like to take part in Samhuinn Fire Festival – when do rehearsals begin?
- How much of my time will Beltane or Samhuinn take?
- Will I get paid for taking part?
- I have a disability – can I still take part?
- I’m involved with a performance organisation – can we participate in Beltane or Samhuinn?
- What are Open Meetings?
- Can I film at the Open Meetings?
- Does BFS film the Open Meetings for people who can’t go?
- I want to take part in a festival but can’t come to the Open Meeting. How can I find out about all the groups and sign up to take part?
Beltane Fire Festival
- When does Beltane Fire Festival take place?
- Where does Beltane take place?
- Will I need a ticket for Beltane?
- Why is Beltane a ticketed event?
- I have mobility issues – can I still attend Beltane?
Samhuinn Fire Festival
- What is Samhuinn Fire Festival?
- When does Samhuinn Fire Festival take place?
- Where does Samhuinn take place?
- Will I need a ticket for Samhuinn?
- I have mobility issues – can I still attend Samhuinn?
Films, Photographs and Research
- I took photos or shot video of BFS performers at one of your events. Can I share them with you?
- I would like BFS members to perform at an event I run/model in my photographs/perform in my film project/be interviewed for my documentary. Is this possible?
- I’m a student and would like to conduct research into BFS for a project. How should I go about this?
Beltane Fire Society
Does BFS receive public funds
No. We are currently entirely self-funded. Fundraising through ticket sales and the collection of charitable donations, at our events and online, enables us to continue to hold our Festivals year after year. BFS pays for the use of Calton Hill for Beltane, including the clean-up afterwards.
I want to set up my own festival. Can I use the BFS name?
As a registered company and charity, we do not license our name to other events, groups or organisations.
Can BFS help me set up my own festival or event?
We’re always happy to hear from like-minded folk from around the world and will do our best to answer any questions. We also welcome new friends from other organisations who wish to take part in our festivals and gain experience to bring to their own events, although we would like to stress that the way we run our festivals is just what WE do, not what EVERYONE should do! As many of our characters and concepts have developed through the creativity and hard work of our volunteers, and while we are happy that people are inspired by that, we do encourage a focus on inspiration and interpretation rather than direct representation of the recognisable aspects of our festivals.
Are all the characters in BFS performances traditional Celtic or Scottish characters?
Some are traditionally Celtic/Scottish (like the Cailleach) and some are represented in traditions across the UK and further afield (like the May Queen and Green Man). While we have a strong focus on keeping the spirit of Scottish street theatre alive and many characters in our festivals are inspired by a combination of local myth, legend and tradition, a number of the recognisable concepts and themes that our performers represent have developed over the years into something quite uniquely BFS – our own traditions!
About Beltane Fire Society
Getting Involved and Taking Part
Can anyone take part in BFS events?
Yes, as long as you’re over 18 (for legal reasons). Previous performance experience is not required (although certain skills may be desirable for some groups) and there are also many non-performance roles to consider, including tech, photographers and stewards. You’re welcome to simply show up at the Open Meeting for Beltane or Samhuinn – details like dates, times and places are posted on this site as soon as they are confirmed – or if you’d like to get in touch beforehand with any questions about volunteering, you can contact our Volunteers Coordinator at email@example.com
I’d like to take part in Beltane Fire Festival – when do rehearsals begin?
Although planning for Beltane begins pretty much as soon as Samhuinn ends and Group Organisers begin their work in early February, volunteer participants are advised to come along to the Open Meeting (at the end of February) to find out about the groups that they may wish to join. Rehearsals begin directly after that and it is not usually possible to join a performance group later in the preparation process. However, there may still be opportunities to take part as a volunteer steward or part of our tech crew, which are not only vital roles within the festival but also a great introduction to taking part in our events.
I’d like to take part in Samhuinn Fire Festival – when do rehearsals begin?
The Open Meeting for Samhuinn is at the end of August/beginning of September every year and rehearsals begin directly after that. Again, there may be opportunities for late-comers to join us as volunteer stewards or tech crew.
How much of my time will Beltane or Samhuinn take?
The simplest answer is “How much have you got?”. Most performance groups meet to plan and rehearse twice a week for the two months before a festival (usually one evening through the week and one afternoon at the weekend), whereas production groups tend to meet less often (once a week, or sometimes less regularly). Most groups also have a weekend away, often camping or visiting places of significance, for bonding, relaxing and more rehearsals. Performers are also responsible for their own props and costumes, although groups tend to organise communal costuming sessions to share skills and resources, which turns them into social affairs. In addition, all performers are required to attend full cast walk-through rehearsals near the date itself.
If this sounds a big commitment, you would be surprised how quickly the time flies, since above all the experience is (meant to be) fun. You should also bear in mind that different groups prepare to different intensities and make different demands on time. Popular starting points for BFS volunteers, and a return home for those with busy lives, are stewarding and teching; while rehearsals/training are still vital, this group tend to be easier to fit in to time constraints.
Will I get paid for taking part?
Apart from a very small number of essential part-time paid positions (Event Coordinator, Online Communications Coordinator and Event Safety Officer) BFS is entirely run by volunteers, including the Board of Trustees. Festival performers and members of production groups also take part on a voluntary basis, and are paid in new skills, new friends and unforgettable experiences.
I have a disability – can I still take part?
Yes. Although some groups are very physically-focused in nature with performances involving, for example, acrobatics or drumming over long periods of time, there are plenty of non-physically-demanding roles (even within performance groups) and we do our best to adapt to include everyone. We are an inclusive and welcoming Society and if you have specific concerns, please feel free to get in touch through volunteers[at]beltane[dot]org and our Volunteers Coordinator will be happy to answer your questions.
I’m involved with a performance organisation – can we participate in Beltane or Samhuinn?
For enquiries about participating as an external group, please contact the Board of Trustees via festival[at]beltane[dot]org with details of your organisation, links to where your performances can be seen online (pictures or videos) and how you see yourselves fitting in with our festival. This information should be sent as early as possible. Please be aware that although our events are festivals, they are not structured like a music festival. They are pieces of outdoor investigative theatre and do not involve tents for bands to play in or lots of raised staging.
How To Get Involved
What are Open Meetings?
About two months before each festival, we host an Open Meeting. These are opportunities to find out about the Society and our community of volunteers and to meet the organisers of the performance and production groups for the festival. The Group Organisers give short presentations about their groups and people in attendance can sign up for groups at the Open Meeting. If you can’t make it along, you can still take part in the festival and sign up for a group (see I want to take part in a festival but can’t come to the Open Meeting. How can I find out about all the groups and sign up to take part? below).
Can I film at the Open Meetings?
No. Filming is strictly prohibited at the Open Meetings.
Does BFS film the Open Meetings for people who can’t go?
No. For the same reasons as attendees are not permitted to film the Open Meetings, we also do not film them. While Open Meetings are open to the public to attend, they are not festivals, performances or public events (they take place in privately hired venues). Group Organisers of performance and production (i.e. not performance) groups create short presentations to introduce their groups to potential members. This is often done without make-up or costumes and presentations are created specifically to be accessible, appealing and entertaining in person. Creating presentations to be filmed and shared with the world online is a completely different thing.
Our Group Organisers come from a variety of backgrounds and work in a range of different occupations, including those where videos of them put on the internet and potentially seen by employers and/or clients, without the relevant context (there is little to no lasting control of context in the online world), could cause major issues. On the flipside, some of our Group Organisers are professional performers and it could be damaging to their careers for such videos to exist online in perpetuity.
Not all groups are performance groups and not all Group Organisers are performers. For those running a production group, even standing up in front of hundreds of people and giving a presentation can be daunting. Even for those who are performers, their first Open Meeting presentation can be a challenging experience far removed from performing in costume and make-up at a festival.
Although we love to share what we do online, that content is created and curated with the specific objective of posting it on the internet to be viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. Everyone involved in anything we share is aware of this and makes an informed decision to take part in the making of that content. When group rehearsals are photographed and filmed, people have the option to step out of shot if being included in that particular media would be detrimental to their career or if they simply don’t feel comfortable with the experience. That is the right of all our volunteers and we care for their wellbeing.
Filming at the Open Meeting would directly contravene our collective approach of care, compassion and comfort for all our volunteers. A serious amount of consideration has been given to this issue over the years (and still is) from every angle and we ask that people in attendance, our members, and prospective members respect the decision we have reached.
I want to take part in a festival but can’t come to the Open Meeting. How can I find out about all the groups and sign up to take part?
We post detailed information about all the groups on this website and share it across all our social media. This includes the Group Organisers’ names and contact details (so you can get in touch and sign up) and information about the group concepts, activities, rehearsal schedules and locations, open rehearsals, skills desired, skills taught and anything else the Group Organisers wish to share. All the information presented at the Open Meeting is shared online along with (usually) additional detail for you to browse at your leisure. While our Open Meetings are exciting experiences, not being able to make it along will not prevent you from taking part in our festivals.
Beltane Fire Festival
When does Beltane Fire Festival take place?
Beltane Fire Festival takes place on 30th April every year, regardless of what day of the week that date falls on.
Where does Beltane take place?
Calton Hill, Edinburgh.
Will I need a ticket for Beltane?
Yes. Beltane Fire Festival is a ticketed event and has been for a number of years. Information about ticket pricing and ordering can be found in a prominent place on this site and also on our social media during the times when tickets are on sale. It is usually possible to purchase tickets on the night from the Box Office at Calton Hill (until they sell out), but tickets purchased in advance are subject to a discount and we advise securing your ticket early in order to be sure of getting your hands on one!
Why is Beltane a ticketed event?
Any event with an audience of thousands has a responsibility to provide adequate safety and facilities – which we are required to do by Edinburgh City Council and by law. While we would love our festival to be a free and open one, without any restrictions, we are bound by the necessary requirements of the scale and situation of our events. Provision of facilities for our audience is mostly a cost to the Society, not a commercial benefit. Our events are a victim of their own success – without ticketing and event management we would be unable to coordinate or pay to continue in the way that so many people clearly want us to. You can find more information about what your ticket fee pays for in this blog post from April 2015 and this one from April 2016.
I have mobility issues – can I still attend Beltane?
Yes, although please be aware that access to Calton Hill involves a sloping ascent and the Festival takes place in darkness with some areas becoming very crowded, so you may want to consider attending with a friend and arriving early to ensure your comfort. You are welcome to get in touch through access[at]beltane[dot]org if you have specific questions about access and we will do our best to advise you on the safest way to have a great Beltane experience.
Samhuinn Fire Festival
When does Samhuinn take place?
Samhuinn takes places on 31st October every year, regardless of what day of the week that date falls on.
Where does Samhuinn take place?
Samhuinn takes place in the centre of Edinburgh. There may be slight variations in route each year but the exact locations are publicised well in advance.
Will I need a ticket for Samhuinn?
No. Samhuinn is not currently a ticketed event, although we do recommend arriving early to ensure that you get a great view!
I have mobility issues – can I still attend Samhuinn?
Yes, everyone is welcome although please be aware that Samhuinn takes place in the dark and the audience tends to be very tightly packed in places. Although the procession is often on a hill, the staged performances usually take place on a flatter area so we advise getting in touch with us through access[at]beltane[dot]org in advance if you have specific questions about access so we can help with suggested arrival times and places to spectate from.
Films, Photographs and Research
We’re always excited to see photos people take at our events and we love sharing them with our members and friends. The best thing to do is upload the photos or video to one of your own online places (like a Facebook album, a page on your website, or your YouTube channel) and then send us a link so that we can share it and any web traffic resulting from it goes directly to you. What we CANNOT do is make use of image files that you send to us. We can’t even archive these for future use as we have no license or contract with you for use of the images and we need to be certain that any photographs we use in our promotional material, online or offline, are photographs that we are legally allowed to use in that manner and have the paperwork to prove this (you saying “I don’t mind what you do with them” is not a legally binding contract!).
I would like BFS members to perform at an event I run/model in my photographs/perform in my film project/be interviewed for my documentary. Is this possible?
If your event or project is of a commercial nature, this absolutely must be represented honestly and openly from the first contact you have with us. Although BFS participants come together for festivals and some performance groups do perform together year-round, we are all volunteers and cannot guarantee to be able to provide performers to do specific things as and when requested throughout the year. We would be happy to let our members know about your event or project and pass on your contact details so that they can get in touch if they are able to take part. Please bear in mind that our volunteers tend to be very busy during the run-up to Samhuinn and Beltane, so may simply not have the time to be involved in anything else during those periods. To talk about BFS representation at your event, please contact secretary[at]beltane.org. As we are a non-profit charity, we ask that any event or project involving the participation of our members make a donation to Beltane Fire Society. Please also note that individuals or groups performing outside of BFS may have their own terms for compensation.
I’m a student and would like to conduct research into BFS for a project. How should I go about this?
Please get in touch with the Board of Trustees via our Board Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org with details of the course you’re on, the institution you’re studying at and the project you’re doing. We may require written evidence of this, especially if you request special access to film or photograph our participants. As BFS is a volunteer-run community organisation, while it may be possible for individual members to take part in interviews in person or by email at their own discretion, it is not realistic to expect this. The best way to find out about our events is to come along and take part in one!