Beltane welcomes the Summer with puppets, players and fire

The May Queen is the central character during the Beltane Fire Festival
The May Queen is the central character during the Beltane Fire Festival
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ON Sunday, the Beltane Fire Festival returns to the Calton Hill to welcome the onset of Summer and to celebrate a special milestone - this weekend’s event will be the 30th Beltane to be held since the festival first appeared in the 1980s.

After the sell-out success of last year, the modern twist on an ancient Celtic tradition will again mark the changing seasons with a wild mix of drums, fire and physical theatre on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world.

A Red Man, one of the mischievous characters who attempt to seduce the May Queen in the Beltane Fire Festival

A Red Man, one of the mischievous characters who attempt to seduce the May Queen in the Beltane Fire Festival

Although the festival has ancient Celtic roots (first recorded as celebrated by Celts in the first century AD), the modern incarnation of Beltane has a history all of its own.

Begun in 1988 by leading arts figure Angus Farquhar, Beltane Fire Festival is a chance for volunteer performers and audience alike to celebrate freedom and creativity, and to reconnect with nature and the changing of the seasons, right in the heart of the Capital.

While known as a joyful celebration with fire, a narrative does guide events. Amongst a cavalcade of characters, and set to the beating of the drums, the May Queen leads her court over Calton Hill’s National Monument and around the hill to begin the journey toward summer; her counterpart the Green Man is stripped of his winter guise and reborn; and together they light the traditional Beltane bonfire in celebration of the life and warmth ahead in the summer months.

For the 30th Beltane, organisers are pulling out all the stops, with even more strange things to see. The night will include giant puppets, intricate costumes, new fire sculptures and fire dancing moves.

Chair of Beltane Fire Society, Erin Macdonald says, “We are all hugely excited to be a part of the 30th Beltane Fire Festival, and to share it with as many people from the wider community as we can.

“Beltane is always a stunning night, an Edinburgh cultural institution completely unlike anything else. And this year, we’ve got some extra-firey tricks up our sleeve that we can’t wait to share.

“Whether you’ve never been to Beltane before, if you come to it every year, or if it’s been a while since you’ve joined us on the hill, make sure you’re there.” £10 at gate