As a fire spinning community, we each hold a responsibility to sustain and maintain that community. I ask each one of you to think about what you’re doing when you’re performing, and how it can impact others. Do not take this to mean that you should or should not be afraid of fire. You should most definitely respect the fire. Many either hold it in disregard or have become complacent, simply because of their perceived familiarity with it. There is a fundamental mindset that each performer should strive to maintain during any performance involving fire:
1. RESPECT: Fire is an elemental force capable of providing warmth and light, and creating a sense of good cheer and camaraderie; it is an essential survival tool. However, it also has the potential to be an all-consuming, unforgiving force of destruction relentless in its ability to lay waste and ravage, maim and kill. Whether this is your first time lighting up a fire prop, or you’ve been spinning for 15 years, ALWAYS RESPECT THE FIRE.
2. RECOGNIZE: Stay cognizant of the other performers around you. They need safe space to perform in as much as you do, and are just as entitled to it as you are. Be mindful of the fact that our audience has put their faith in us that we will not do anything to endanger them. Keep in mind that our host has entrusted his or her property to us with the understanding that it will not be marred or damaged by our performance.
3. REINSPECT: Always check your equipment before EACH spin. Are your wicks coming apart and in danger of flinging pieces out while burning? Are your chains/tethers kinked, broken or wearing thin? Are your quick-links and other connectors tight and secure? These checks and others appropriate for whichever skill toy you are using for any given performance are critical to ensure the safety and well-being of yourself, your audience and your fellow performers.
4. REMEMBER: That while you are ultimately responsible for your equipment and performance, what happens has the potential to reflect on our entire community. Beyond common sense and basic safety, be responsible, be courteous, and help contribute to the enjoyment we all feel when indulging in and sharing our art. Remember, too, that our responsibility for safety lies first with keeping the AUDIENCE safe, secondly with protecting the VENUE, and then third in assuring the well-being of OURSELVES.
This may be a slightly different point of view for fire safety with some of you, but I offer it in the hopes that it will help everyone to see both the forest AND the trees, as it were. This is because in the past few months, I’ve come across some pretty glaring examples of fire performers who display a blatant disregard for basic fire safety.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We can say with a fair degree of certainty that we have all, at some point, performed with fire (in a professional setting or not) without all of the proper permits or safety precautions. Many people who have been playing with fire literally for so many years will readily admit, if they take a moment to look at things objectively, that they are doing so metaphorically, as well. As a community, we have a responsibility to be safe so that we can continue to thrive as a whole.
As individuals, you most certainly have the latitude to choose whether you want to perform in a safe manner or not – to a degree. I say to a degree because you also have a responsibility to other performers and to our community in general. Your actions, whether you realize or choose to acknowledge it or not, have an impact on other performers. They have the potential to affect not only how are community is viewed by the general public, but also how legislators think in regard to whether or not what we do should be regulated, and to what degree.
If you are involved in a safety related incident, whether it was preventable or not, in all likelihood, it is going to bring attention to fire spinning in general, on some scale. We’ve all seen videos on social media or the news of people who have gone up in flames or damaged property during a fire performance. That kind of negative attention is what causes people to start wanting to over regulate what we do (like it isn’t bad enough already). As an example, it’s why fire breathing is not legal for performance in so many places where other types of fire performance are. This makes it harder for people to make a living from fire performance, and inhibits our ability to share what we do with the public.
Additionally, in regards to our community in general (professional performers aside), most of us would love to share what we do with others and with the public. We enjoy seeing new spinners grow in skill and ability. We foster this type of environment because we like teaching others, or because we enjoy seeing the art spread, or because we like the innovation that new blood brings to what we do. However, if we’re not teaching new artists how to perform safely, then all these issues get compounded by having more people jeopardizing themselves, the community, and the general public. We’re also putting those people who look to us for guidance at risk. This is unacceptable. New artists need to be taught the fundamentals of safety and its importance. Most of them learn by the example set by veteran artists and their own peers.
Go out and have fun. Show off. Wow your audience. Impress your peers. Inspire others. However, for everyone’s benefit, be safe about it. Always. Not just when it’s convenient to do so.