Edinburgh Hogmanay is taking the street party back to the Royal Mile, under the umbrella theme, Be Together. Part of that street party is the theatre offering, which sees Edinburgh’s Harbingers Drum Crew collaborating with German company Dundu, to create a puppetry spectacle with huge sound and light. Sam Hulls from Harbingers Drum Crew spoke with The Fountain about this in more depth.

TF: You are part of this year’s Ed Hogmanay programme, you must be excited?

So we’re really excited to be back this year leading the Torchlight Procession again alongside PyroCeltica, but also to extend our involvement into the Hogmanay night celebrations as well.

TF: And you are collaborating with German artists Dundu to create spectacular street theatre as part of the street party, can you elaborate on this?

I can tell you a little bit more so we are really excited about that. We will be working with Dundu, we’re going to be meeting them over the next couple of months, both here and over hopefully in Stuttgart, where they’re from, to kind of bring together the magic of the two groups, I think we’re both pretty innovative and reactive groups who work well responding to our audience and do things a bit differently so yeah we’re going to be coming together to see how we can kind of feed off and be inspired by one another, and then bring something hopefully, amazing to the street party crowds.

TF: How did this come all about?

This actually came from underbelly they, as I said they were sort of aware of us and we were in talks in regards to the torchlight procession again, and then in touch with us to see if we would be interested in getting involved in some collaborations to work with another performance group and bring what we do to the street party, and it kind of went from there and they sort of had an idea of what they wanted. And, yeah, our talks have been between the three groups.

TF: And what is the premise behind Harbingers Drum Crew, how did you all come together collectively to form the drum outfit?

We’ve been going for about four years now. And we were formed in Edinburgh. And we basically started from a collection of local drum crews. A lot of people don’t know this but there’s quite a strong drumming scene and drum crew scene in Edinburgh. A lot of that is driven from the Beltane Fire Festival. That’s kind of a good source of start up for drum crews. And then there’s just been many spin offs that operate within the city, so we started from that, and we have grown and grown in the last four years. We recruit usually once or maybe twice a year, because we’ve always got at least 20 or more of us, but people do come and go as life changes, so we like to keep numbers up to have a nice big wall of sound, but yes started from the traditional drum crew position but decided to do something a bit different with it so we categorise ourselves as industrial drum core.

And the way that we operate is a bit different in that rather than having a collection of songs that we play. It’s a bit more like having a DJ with a bunch of samples so it’s like a crew leader Alex is the, you know, mastermind DJ calling everything out the front and us, the drummers, basically have got all these individual ‘samples’ or patterns memorised that we can play on call, I think we counted we got over 80 different bits of music that we could play in any combination. So the end result is that actually we have Alex calling each set live so every set we play is literally different and it is unique, and it’s adapted to the audience that is in front of us. So we’re really not set in stone and we do really do work and change our sound and change the energy, based on the setting that we’re playing in.

TF: What’s next for Harbingers Drum Crew after this?

Actually, we’ve just had one of our biggest years. We’ve done double the amount of gigs, that we have in any previous year so obviously we’re hoping it’s a really nice way to finish off the year with the Hogmanay events. Coming up next year looking ahead you will hopefully join us in some of our own gigs at Summerhall and then we usually start looking to the summer festivals and we’ve got quite a few around Scotland, but looking at ways that we can go bit further abroad and jump down to London, and maybe travel across to Europe.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Cowie

For more on the plans for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 2019 click here