Beltane Fire Festival

A modern interpretation of the ancient fertility festival of Beltane 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 fire.

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Beltane Fire Festival

Photo: MacDor Photography

Hundreds of performers take part, and each year thousands of people come to witness the event. The only festival of its kind in the world, the festival is presented as immersive, investigative theatre, set outdoors and with no physical curtains or barriers. You are likely to come face-to-face with the colourful characters as they make their way around the hill, or you can step back and marvel at the scale of a production wrought in only two months by around three hundred volunteers.

There is no single central point where everything is performed, rather there are multiple points of focus spread around the public parkland on Calton Hill, with views across the night-time cityscape of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth. A large part of the story follows the procession of the May Queen, representing summer, around the hill, but there are also counter-performances of fire dancing and Celtic characters dotted all over the hill to ensure everyone has chance to see and be involved. As the procession’s presence awakens one group of characters after another, each plays a part throughout the evening, bringing the hill to life, mirroring the earth’s awakening through spring.

Text supplied by third party.

Performance times

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, EH7 5AB

Thu 30 Apr

Times to be confirmed / £8–£11

Reviews & features

The ancient tradition behind the Beltane Fire Festival

24 Apr 2012

The annual ceremony takes place on Edinburgh's Calton Hill

Fire, processions and rituals – all sounds a bit Wicker Man, right? Beltane Fire Festival, however, is not remotely cult-related and Christopher Lee (nor Nicolas Cage, ahem) will not be anywhere in sight at this annual celebration of changing seasons…

Comments & ratings

1. Jon1978Shery1 May 2011, 7:00pm Report

It is a nice idea and I like the pagan atmosphere, but the whole event is realized pretty poorly and definitely does not deserve to be paid so much.

I expected something definitely more organized than the parade they do on the Halloween night on the Royal Mile, instead it was just more messy and overcrowded and the whole choreography was making much less sense.

There was no clear structure, nor any artistic performance beside some standard drumming, masquerade group dancing, very little fire juggling, and absolutely no "plot" behind it.

I mean, they could have worked much more on theatrical aspect of it, build up some narrative, play with new medias, e.g., projections, background music (beside the drumming), engage more the crowd...none of this was done, just an overpopulated poorly lighted space, with painted people dancing randomly around you.

Then, the "after party"...asking at the Hub (where i bought the festival tickets), nobody really knew how to get these other after-party tickets, I have intensively surfed the entire web-sphere but there was no way to get it. I went at the Caves, before 1am (around 00.30) and the bouncer told me that they (the Beltane Organizers) would have sold other tickets for it, but i should have come around 1am. I did so, and the same bouncer now told me that there were no more tickets. Are we jocking, or what? Just state clearly that this after party is mainly for the people involved in the organization (and possibly their friends), and don't cheat blatantly about it just to get more interest around the whole event.

Be honest with what you give...at the end, it is surely a brilliant idea to celebrate rites of nature and I loved that, but please...either ask less money for it or at least try to organize it better...

2. Clara Clara12 Mar 2015, 9:37pm4 stars Beltane Fire Festival Report

I've been to the festival for the last couple of years, and can't wait for 2015.

Don't go expecting a standard performance - it's not the kind of event that's put on with the audience's experience as the main focus. Instead, it's a modern incarnation of an ancient ritual put on by hundreds of local volunteers, an expression of madness, energy and joy, and it's something to witness and feel, rather than to sit back and observe or critique in a carefully structured or stage-managed way. If you realise this, it's pretty special.

There's nothing like Beltane any where else in the world - worth the price of a ticket to see something completely bonkers and more than a little bit magical.

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