Marie, one of the Group Organisers for Torchbearers, shares her story of preparing for the Samhuinn 2015 Open Meeting…
It’s Saturday the 29th of August 2015 and tomorrow I’m going to get up at the Samhuinn 2015 Open Meeting and try to convince people to join Torchbearers. Two years ago I was about to attend my first Samhuinn Open Meeting as a volunteer and I remember being nervous as hell as I had no idea what I was walking into. My friend Karl and I had been to see Beltane and we had instantly had the “OMG we need to get involved in this” feeling that a lot of new volunteers experience when they first see the festival, and so we took ourselves along to the Samhuinn Open Meeting, got involved and never looked back!
I can still remember walking into that first Open Meeting and one of the first people to speak to us is now someone that I consider a very good friend. At the time he was joking about Karl and I being too British and queuing to sign in rather than just crowding around the sign in table in true hippy fashion. I still maintain to this day that I am not a hippy – I am hippy adjacent and therefore will continue to queue :-P
I remember how funny and wonderful all the Group Organisers (GOs) presentations were and I signed up to be a Torchbearer (aka Torchie). Little did I realise at the time, but that day I met people that would become my family and would be one of the main reasons that no matter where I go, Edinburgh will always be home.
Now preparing to be a Torchie GO, I realise that as a volunteer sitting watching the Open Meeting I never quite grasped the amount of work that goes into the festival even before the Open Meeting. For many, the Open Meeting represents the start of preparations for the upcoming festival, however in reality many people have been working for months to organise the festival; the Board, the Event Coordinator, even the GOs! So I figured, as a GO, why not share some of the things that we’ve been up to before the Open Meeting even starts!
First you need to understand the basics of the group I am organising. We are the Torchbearers and we provide light for the festival. What that means is that we carry 6-7ft high torches with either light or fire on top of them. At the Open Meeting, it’s my job to convince volunteers to sign up for my group, so how do I do that?
Well, in order to get here I had to apply to run the group, so I had a concept of what I wanted the group to be. In this case, it’s fire and ice Torchies (no, not Game of Thrones inspired, but if that’s what works for you, we can work with that!). I’ve spent a weekend in a room with all the other GOs and I’ve had to explain the group concept to them, but telling a group of 30 people sitting at your feet vs a room of 200 people is a bit different! I know, I’ll use props! Sounds great, until you realise that you need to gather and/or create these! So, off I went to East Linton where the Society has storage containers to get my hands on torch poles and cloaks. As these had been used for the last festival, they still smell of kerosene, aka Torchie’s perfume! Add in some clip art flames and we have a fire torch prop!
One down, but I still needed something for ice. This is where my Co-GO comes to the rescue, and we’re off into a tech lab!
An ice torch is a new concept for Samhuinn so we had to come up with something from scratch. Lots of hours in the lab, and we managed to go from concept, making do with what we could use when we couldn’t find what we needed (including using an Ikea pencil instead of a dowel), grinding balls and then lots of paint, glue and glitter and we have an ice torch prototype!
Bet you thought I was kidding about the pencil…
Ball grinding. Don’t try this at home!
My flat is going to be covered in glitter for at least 6 months after this festival.
Now we have a fire and an ice torch and we’re ready for the Open Meeting! At this point I can only hope that I can inspire people the same way the GOs two years ago inspired me and that any new members to the society will find something special, just like I did. Here’s to the next two months and spending the journey with all of the wonderful Torchies, hippies, hippy-adjacents and anyone else outside of or in between! Happy Open Meeting :-)