Beltane Fire Festival turns up the heat

Beltane Fire Festival turns up the heat

credit: MacDor Photography

Everything you need to know about the annual event on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill

What is Beltane Fire Festival?

The celebration is inspired by an ancient Gaelic festival that marked the beginning of summer. The modern festival began in 1988 and has evolved into a night of immersive performance and colourful characters. A procession leads the May Queen and the Green Man from National Monument, known to Beltaners as the Acropolis, past a series of performances and spectacles. There’s drummers, dancers, acrobatics, elaborate costume, masses of body paint and a big bonfire.

When is Beltane?

At the moment where winter dies and summer is born. Or, 8pm on Thursday 30 April. Gates open at 8pm, the Green man appears at twilight – approximately 9.20pm – and performances start across the hill from 9.30pm. The bonfire is lit at 11.30pm and the performances continue along with dancing until 1am. Current weather reports predict showers during the day and a cloudy evening.

Where is Beltane?

Calton Hill, Edinburgh. The entrance is by Waterloo Place. There is no central performance point. A large part of the story follows the procession of the May Queen but there are also counter-performances of fire dancing and Celtic characters dotted all over the hill.

Who is Beltane?

The festival is made up of over 300 voluntary collaborators divided into distinct performance groups; the Torchbears light the way; Processional Drummers bring the rhythm, the Whites guard the May Queen; the Reds bring chaos and attempt to disrupt the procession; Aerie are all dressed as birds, messengers to the gods; and Beasties are furry creatures waking from their winter hibernation. Central to the procession and to summer’s triumph over winter are the May Queen and the Green Man. She personifies the energy of the earth, embodying purity, strength and the potential for growth, whilst he represents the life that grows on earth.

Why Beltane?

To celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of summer. To enjoy fire, music and performance in nature at night. Because it’s safe to say at no other festival will you see ninja clowns, the burning of a Wicker Witch and the rebirth of a phoenix all in one evening.

How do I get tickets?

Tickets are available from The Hub, Ripping Records and Ticket Scotland priced £10.50. A limited number will be available on the gate for £11.

Beltane Fire Festival, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Thu 30 Apr.

Beltane Fire Festival

A modern interpretation of the ancient fertility festival of Beltane housed in the spectacular setting of Calton Hill. Beltane Fire Society performs the story of the death of winter and the birth of summer via dance, drumming, debauched acrobatics, giant puppetry and, of course, fire.

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