Winter festival advertises jobs fit for two kings

The festival of Samhuinn takes place on October 31. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The festival of Samhuinn takes place on October 31. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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IT IS far from the usual adverts found in the “situations vacant” column – two jobs that are fit for a king.

Colourful applicants are now being sought to don full body paint and a laurel wreath crown to play the role of a seasonal monarch at the Celtic Samhuinn celebration run by the Beltane Fire Society.

This seasonal work could see you throne into an unusual role. Picture: David Hamburgh

This seasonal work could see you throne into an unusual role. Picture: David Hamburgh

The successful candidates will form the centrepiece of a dazzling theatre piece performed to a crowd of 
thousands at the festival of Samhuinn, on October 31.

Would-be Kings of Summer and Winter must undergo a series of informal interviews to showcase their credentials and zeal for the part before rehearsals begin for the pagan spectacular played out in the historic heart of the Capital.

The vacancy, which has been advertised on the Beltane Fire Society website, said it aims to recruit aspiring “kings” to suggest a co-ordinated storyline and “battle for control of the seasons and rule of the kingdom through the next half of the year”.

Matthew Richardson, chairman of the Beltane Fire Society, said the kings remain on their theatrical thrones for one year only.

He said: “We are looking for people who are enthusiastic about celebrating the changing of the seasons and who want to put on an amazing performance at Parliament Square on the Royal Mile.

“It has traditionally been advertised through mailing lists and on our website and symbolises the end of summer court – which has grown overripe and is rotting away.

“Summer is interrupted by the arrival of winter which is dark and menacing.

“In the past we have had sword fights to symbolise the transformation from summer to winter, other times we have had one character transforming from one aspect to the other.

“It’s a theatrical piece as much as it is a celebration of seasonal change, and we have had people from all different walks of life, from 
theatre and performance backgrounds, and others who have little experience but really want to express the character and have a strong idea of the role.”

The Summer King represents the “giver of life, fertility and celebration” while the Winter King is the “bringer of the cold, dark nights”. A procession sweeps its way down the Royal Mile before the performance takes place outside St Giles’ Cathedral.

Mr Richardson said applications are not limited to thespians but the jobs are open to amateur performers with a “strong interest in expressing the characters”.

“We are interviewing but not formally,” he said. “It’s to talk to all the candidates and find out what storylines they have, what their backgrounds are, and how they want to portray the characters.

“There are many groups and performers taking part but kings are figureheads of these two courts. Beltane has been going for 25 years and Samhuinn since around 1995. It is the opposite of the Beltane and takes place at the start of winter.”

Beltane Fire Society, which is a charity run by volunteers, has set a deadline for submissions of August 3, with interviews being held over the following week.

Anyone interested in 
taking up the role of either king can send applications or questions to blues@beltane.org.