Make this the year you go to Beltane Fire Festival

Make this the year you go to Beltane Fire Festival

credit: Martin McCarthy

As proposed changes to processions in Edinburgh threaten Samhuinn, Beltane gets fired up to celebrate the start of summer on Calton Hill

Beltane Fire Festival celebrates its 30th birthday this year, with organisers Beltane Fire Society promising to pull out all the stops ahead of the May Day Bank Holiday. The outdoor event, taking place on Sun 30 Apr, is a modern twist on the Celtic tradition and celebrates the changing of the seasons with drums, fire, physical theatre and a shed load of body paint.

Each year the core elements of the festival are observed, the May Queen leads her court around the hill to begin the journey toward summer, her counterpart the Green Man is stripped of his winter guise and together they light the traditional Beltane bonfire. Hundreds of volunteer performers take part, divided into groups such as Whites (who guard the Queen), Reds (who want to disrupt the procession) and Beasties (furry creatures waking from hibernation), so there are always new characters and new spectacles to enjoy. 2017 features giant puppets, light sculptures across the hill and the society are also working on a massive new fire arch for performers to process through.

While Beltane Fire Festival would not be affected by Edinburgh Council's proposed changes to rules around processions, their sister event Samhuinn would be. The proposed changes include a ban on music in processions after 6pm, avoiding processions in the city centre (Samhuinn takes place along High Street and the Royal Mile) and restrictions on the formation of processions [Editor: see updates below].

Beltane Fire Festival and Samhuinn both offer an alternative to the standard static format of events taking place on stages. They are more immersive, allowing the audience and performers to intermingle. At Beltane there is a narrative to follow but performances take place across the hill and amongst the audience, two people on Calton Hill on Sun 30 Apr could see completely different spectacles.

Tickets for Beltane Fire Festival are on sale now, priced £8 in advance and £10 on the gate.

**UPDATE 31 Mar**
The List has been contacted by an Edinburgh City Council spokesperson, who said: 'We are currently consulting the public on proposed guidance for holding marches and parades in Edinburgh. However, there are no plans to increase restrictions on such events.

'By developing a detailed policy and code of conduct we aim to provide a greater understanding of its expectations to organisers, as well as a consistent approach for event planning, rather than introducing new controls.'

Public consultation closes Fri 31 Mar, if you'd like to to contribute your own thoughts head to the council consultation website.

Further reading available here:
Help save Samhuinn: our event is at risk (
Samhuinn coverage in the local press: STV, Edinburgh Evening News, Edinburgh Reporter and The National

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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