In the time between now and Beltane, we need to recruit about two dozen torchbearers and a similar number of stewards who can become a team who will look good and perform well on the Hill. To do this we should be meeting weekly at first, and then more frequently as we get closer to the performance.
The goals for the earlier meetings are to get to know each other, familiarise ourselves with the Hill and the performance, and decide what we want to do in the way of costume (bearing in mind we have a number left from last year).
During the second phase, we shall be making the costumes and torch balls (balls of fabric to soak in paraffin and then place in the baskets on the metal torches - we will not be using wooden firebrands this year, with one possible exception) and to balance all this work, continue with a bit of playing as well. This phase culminates with an away day, which may or may not include being away overnight, depending on what folk want to do.
The last week or so contains the compulsory stuff: to be allowed on the Hill as a performer, you must attend a Health and Safety briefing and sign the appropriate form. Almost as important are the two walkthroughs, where all the various groups come together to ensure everything works and to give the Blue Men and Production people a chance to spot any potential problems. These are usually the Sunday before the event and earlier on the day itself (this year it's a Sunday followed by a Bank Holiday but normally it would be very useful, if you're working, to take these two days off). The fire retardant needs about a day to soak in to clothes and dry out, so costumes must be finished and any sartorial decisions made by the Wednesday of the last week at the latest, by which time we should also have finished making fireballs and torches.
On the day itself, each group should arrive on the Hill early in the morning so we can help with setting up: the more people do this, the faster it goes. After that, there's time to go and eat something before a final walkthrough. It's rare for any changes to be made at this stage, but it does give a last chance to check any potential problems. Then it's off the Hill to go and get ready, before returning about an hour or so before the Procession starts.
Other things that will happen during the weeks between now and Beltane should include a couple of BFS-wide social evenings, to give people a chance to meet folk from the other areas, a chance to see the video made of last year's Beltane, and a number of fund-raising busks (it would be interesting to see if we can come up with a torchbearer contribution to these other than bucket shaking - suggestions welcome!).
© Steve Glover for torchbearers.org.uk, 2007