Updated: Aug 1, 2021
An official history of Pentacle Drummers (10 minute read)
28th July 2021 is the 20th anniversary of Pentacle Drummers, so we thought it was finally time to put together a story of our history. Now, it's not a complete anthology, but it highlights some of the pivotal moments for us.
2001 - A path is started
Back in 2001, a small gathering of like minded people got together to beat a path for Eastbourne's Giants, Herne and Andred.
That group of people became known as Pentacle Drummers.
It began at Lammas Fest. The first Lammas Fest took place on 28th July 2001 around the base of the Wish Tower in Eastbourne. The festival got larger and larger each year until it took over the complete western lawns.
The Giants that walked in the procession needed a way to be announced. So a few people picked up some drums, strapped them to themselves and made a noise. The Drummers were born.
For a couple of years after that, the group was simply called Eastbourne Giants and Drummers, and we attended many events with the Giants to support them.
Eventually the Drummers took on their unique identity of Pentacle Drummers. The name was chosen to represent and indicate the group's origins.
Regular events at this time included the Beltane Bash Pagan Pride march in London, the magnificent Herstmonceux Medieval Festival and the Jack in the Green event in Hastings.
Photos used with permission.
Finding their own way
Interest in the Drummers grew and grew and we began to be asked to appear at events in our own capacity. Eventually as was mutually agreed the Drummers and the Giants separated.
The Drummers grew slightly in numbers, and in 2006 the Iconic logo we all know today was born.
New members joined Pentacle Drummers, the number of events being performed each year grew, and the popularity of the group kept on growing.
In 2006 we decided to produce a cd. 'Life In Tatters' was recorded in 2006 and released on March 19th 2007. Now available on a pay what you wish basis from Bandcamp.
Onwards and Upwards
Business carried on for the Drummers as usual, year in year out.
We regularly attended wonderful events such as the Beltane Bash in London, and many of the Sussex Bonfires.
In May 2009 we joined the world of Facebook with this simple post.
Later in 2009 the Drummers were asked to perform for Dizzee Rascal as part of his official "Dirtee Cash" music video. We travelled up to London to shoot with Dizzee in a Wicker Man style video.
More years passed with various highlights for the Drummers.
Pentacle Drummers were invited to perform at The Secret Garden Party festival.
In Oct the Facebook page hit the first 1000 subscribers.
We played our last performance at the Middle Farm Wassail.
Played our first ever Horsham Day Of Dance (as the only non Morris side to be asked to perform).
Asked to perform for the Eastbourne visit of the Olympic Torch
Travelled to Glastonbury to drum in the town.
Played the most unusual gig at the Brighton Curious Market.
Drummed at the amazing Samhain Celebration.
Had our first outing as the Pirates of Pentacle Bay at Hasting Pirate Day.
Planned our very own WASSAIL.
In 2013 after years of attending the Middle Farm Wassail, we decided to host our own Wassail celebration. The date was set, the location secured, the bands booked, what could possibly go wrong?
A load of snow - That's what.
But did that stop us? No, nothing stops Pentacle Drummers (a global pandemic excluded). This first Wassail was certainly one to remember, and it is still spoken about today.
The Drummers wanted to bring Wassails into the 21st century whilst honoring the many traditions that Wassails had encapsulated, so our wassail was 'Tradition with a Twist'.
Many that attended said it was the most wonderful wassail they had been to, and we were humbled. It was also a humbling night for Pentacle Drummers as around 300 people had travelled from all over the country to attend our event.
Trees were planted and Wassailed, cider was consumed and the amazing Wojtek Godzisz who wrote a wonderful version of a traditional Wassail Song especially for our first Wassail. You can hear it over on his Bandcamp page.
Pentacle Drummers first Wassail was an unquestionable success, and spawned many more in the years to follow.
The Rough With The Smooth
With so many members in the group, with wildly different views, perspectives and aims, sometimes tensions can grow, just like with any family.
In 2013 some long term members were asked to leave, and as a result, others left too. Due to this split of members, Pentacle Drummers went through a very tough time towards the end of 2013. which sadly continued through 2014 and into 2015.
We became the target of malicious attacks from some of those that had left. These attacks were fended off time and time again and that storm was weathered; and bizarrely, somewhat counter intuitively ended up yielding huge benefits.
The benefit this brought was that we were finally able to move forward as a cohesive and unified group.
Without this challenging time, Pentacle Drummers would not have been able to become the group we are today.
Rumbling Thunder Approaches
With a fresh perspective and will to be better than we'd ever been, on 5th Dec 2013 Pentacle Drummers entered CMP Studios to record our Second Album - Rumbling Thunder.
The studio was hot but the sound was hotter.
The planned release date for the album was Jan 1st 2014 - Starting the year off right.
Once recorded, mixed, mastered and printed it was ready for the world. The first print run of 200 CD's sold in less than 24 hours and paved the way for us to have the 1000 copies of the CD factory duplicated.
2014 & The Summer Solstice
Pentacle Drummers started this year strong. Selling out of the first print of Rumbling Thunder. Preparing for our second Wassail (with less snow). The Wassail that year was headlined by the amazing Roxcircle, who again, wrote a special song especially for the event. But most importantly we began preparations for our second self run event, the Pentacle Drummers Summer Solstice Festival.
The Summer Solstice in 2014 happened to fall on a Saturday, a perfect day for an event, and we had spent a long while in planning this event. Performers were lined up to entertain, the location was secured and stall holders were booking faster than spaces could be created for them.
For every year in recent memory, the weather for the Summer Solstice had been less than perfect. Cloud, rain, winds.
But in 2014 the weather was, for want of a better word, perfect. The day started perfectly, continued perfectly and ended perfectly.
Now, we didn't claim responsibility for the weather being good but you know...
Our good friends Inkubus Sukkubus headlined the evening for us and what a show they put on.
Photos © Greg Draven
2014 continued well for us. Bonfire season was a success, the Samhain Celebration by Pagan Future Fests was wonderful as always. A particular highlight was some of the Pentacle Drummers joining forces with Inkubus Sukkubus on stage for their finale song 'Witches'.
The years rolled on, each more successful than the last. We were performing up and down the country almost every weekend. We filmed a music video. Pentacle Drummers Summer Solstice festival grew and grew and The Wassil moved to Pevensey Castle.
The Drummers found their way to Butser Beltane Wickerman burning with what was to be a beautiful new relationship between the two organisations.
Then, one day in 2017 a very exciting request came in.
Pentacle Drummers were asked to perform at the Stonehenge Campsite Summer Solstice festival AND to drum the Sun up at Stonehenge itself.
The Pentacle Drummers and Stonehenge seemed a perfect match so the invite was gladly accepted. But we had no idea how perfect a match it was.
We travelled to the magical land of Wiltshire and set our tents at the Stonehenge campsite, ready to entertain the guests there.
We performed for the crowds at the festival and then we made our way to The Stones, the evening before the Summer Solstice sunrise. Little did we know what truly awaited us there.
Arriving at the stones, drums in hand and in full band garb, we made our way through the crowds and into the ancient stone circle. One member recounts - "We walked into the stones with purpose, and It felt as if the crowds parted for us, ensuring we were able to be where we needed to be. Allowing us to take our place at the heart of the stone circle".
Suddenly, the Pentacle Drummers were surrounded by crowds. Crowds eager to hear and feel what they had to do.
And the drumming began.
In a recent poll of the Drummers favourite moments, drumming in Stonehenge was in the top three. And for good reason.
We drummed for hours for the crowd and the crowd gave the Drummers room to entertain, some members of the public dancing in and out of the drummers, weaving through us in a throng of rhythmic ecstasy.
We were holding the crowd and the crowd were feeding their energy to us.
"I remember looking around at the crowd and as the beats changed, got slower or slightly more subdued, the crowd echoed that form, as if receiving instructions from the drummers."
When the Drummers had reached the climax and crescendo of their performance, the drums fell silent and the members of Pentacle Drummers let out a triumphant roar. The crowd fell silent for the briefest of moments; and then erupted into a cheer for the drummers of unrivaled power.
"I have never felt as much of a rock star as I did at that moment. To hear three thousand, or more people cheering for you is something I'll never forget.
As the Sun rose on the morning of the Solstice, the Drummers, tired but still on a high from our performances the night before, drummed the Sun up and celebrated with the thousands of other people. We made our way back to the campsite, ready to perform one last time for the festival goers, and then to make our way home.
New friends were made at that festival and old friends seen again, but most importantly we did what they set out to do, entertain the crowds.
A Horror Story
Late in 2017 we were asked to perform in the locally shot feature film '13 Graves'. That meant Pentacle Drummers would be seen in cinemas, and as you can imagine, we were extremely excited..
13 Graves starred one of our very own drummers, Greg Draven, as the villain of the film, The Woodsman. He was also one of the producers, and you know what they say, it's not what you know, but who you know.
But of course, after looking at videos of the various drumming groups, the unanimous choice for the film was Pentacle Drummers.
The Director of 13 Graves said, "There was no alternative really, we had to have the best, most energetic and passionate drummers for the scene. Pentacle Drummers are the obvious choice, I mean, have you seen them drum?!"
Stills courtesy Verite Films Ltd.
The list goes even on and on
The last few years were more of the same, success. The Drummers continue to perform at our regular events, The Wassail, Stonehenge, Glastonbury Dragons, Butser Beltane, Anderidafest and the Sussex Bonfires; as well as unique one off events, handfastings, weddings, birthday parties, charity events, the list goes ever on and on.
The Wassail is now one of the most talked about Wassails in the country, and every year raises large sums of money for local charities.
We released a VERY limited edition stamped badge in 2018 also, they sold out within a couple of hours. A few were withheld, for competitions and the like, you never know, you may see some come along again soon.
2019 rolled around for Pentacle Drummers and sadly the group lost one of its members, the truly amazing Keith Hylands.
Keith passed in the February of 2019 and was a legend in the Drummers, always happy, always smiling and finding the best in everything. Keith is still missed by the group.
A year later, in the same month, a second member of Pentacle Drummers passed away.
Eddie was such a cheerful fellow, right to the end. We had a tradition. Every time a mistake was made (usually by Adam) in one of our performances we'd shout 'Eddie', and blame him, whether he was there or not.
Eddie always took this with the love and good humour with which it was intended and this tradition will continue as long as Pentacle Drummers are around.
In august 2019 some of the members of Pentacle Drummers travelled to Osea Island in Essex to work on a TV show called The Third Day, starring Jude Law and Katherine Waterston.
Other events continued for us as usual.
What can be said about this year? We put on our Wassail for 2020, but that was to be our last event for a while because soon after, the world started to change, and quickly.
The global pandemic of Covid-19 stopped everything. Rehearsals stopped, performances stopped, events stopped.
That didn't stop us from doing something for our supporters though. In may 2020 Butser Ancient Farm put on a virtual festival event, free of charge for those missing out on the Beltane wickerman festival, and the Drummers were asked to put together a video for the event.
Not ones to turn down a challenge, we created a socially distanced video. You can find it on their Facebook page.
The world continued to socially distance, wash hands, clap and try to weather the storm.
But for the first time in a long time, the Pentacle Drummers were still, and our drums silent. Many in the group missed the social interaction of the other drummers, but also it allowed the drummers to take a step back and recharge.
In October of 2020 some members of Pentacle Drummers travelled to Osea once again, this time to take part in a historic Live TV/Film/Theater production of The Third Day: Autumn. A 12 hour live stream TV movie, again starring Jude law and Catherine Waterston. Very strict Covid protocols were followed to allow the production to take place in the 'normal' world. Regular testing and individual bubbles were used to endure the island was Covid free.
Photos © Greg Draven
2020 turned into 2021 and Pentacle Drummers shared a Wassail video from 2020 filmed by Steve and Andy Clifton, to ensure that people had something to celebrate at the start of 2021.
You can catch the video on their Facebook page here, or watch it below.
As the world started to open up slightly we were asked to take part in a Butser Beltane project, for the launch of Butsers new platform, Butser Plus.
A group of Drummers travelled to Butser to film for the launch video, and while the atmosphere was different it was good to to be back performing.
Bookings started to come back in. The Stonehenge Campsite Festival event took place, and once again, the soundtrack was that of Pentacle Drummers.
Then finally on 24th June 2021 the Pentacle Drummers, after over a year of not being able rehearse together. We returned to our studio to begin rehearsals once again.
The events started rolling in. Hailsham Live, Hasting Pirate Day, Fantasy Forest and more on the horizon.
Photos courtesy and © - Herne Greenwood, JTP53 Photography, Roz Bassford.
20 years in the making
All this brings us neatly to this point, right now, 20 years later.
For 20 years we have beaten our drums, forged paths, entertained thousands upon thousands but one thing remains as true today as it ever was; all the success we, the Pentacle Drummers have had, is down to our fans, families, friends and those that choose to share our journey with us.
The support Pentacle Drummers have had at every stage has been amazing, and we would be nothing without our fans.
all of us here at Pentacle Drummers, would like to thank every single one of you that have joined our journey and made it to the end of our story.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.