Fired up to bid farewell to winter and welcome summer were thousands of revellers gathered on Calton Hill to celebrate the Beltane Fire Festival last night.
It marked the 30th anniversary of the ancient procession, with organisers pulling out all the stops to entertain the sell-out audience. The night included giant puppets, intricate costumes, new fire sculptures and theatre by flames set to a blazing backdrop.
Featuring the Green Man and May Queen, the festival celebrates the arrival of summer with drums, acrobatics, immersive theatre and, of course, fire.
Speaking about the history of Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Festival, founder Angus Farquhar said:
“Since we restarted it in its modern form 30 years ago, the Beltane Festival has continued to grow and flourish. It always felt apt to celebrate spring, warmth coming back into the air and the miracle of renewal as witnessed through the annual arc of growth and fecundity in the natural world. I am incredibly proud of its evolution, the energy and commitment of the hundreds of volunteers who make it happen and draw strength from the heart of its rituals and traditions.”
The drama centres on a “magical procession” led by the May Queen and her court. In the procession the Green Man is “killed” by the May Queen, stripped of his winter guise and resurrected in a dramatic ritual performance, before the lighting of the traditional Beltane bonfire to welcome summer.
Beltane Fire Society chair Erin McDonald said: “Over the past thirty years the Beltane Fire Festival has evolved from a handful of performers and a pretty small crowd into a cultural institution attracting thousands of attendees from all over the world that around 300 volunteers who come together to create something truly special. It’s both mad and beautiful and cannot be described; it has to be felt. We’re so proud of what we accomplished this year, and look forward to evolving further over the next thirty years.”
Last night’s event attracted thousands of revellers, with people coming from far and wide to witness it for themselves. Mikey Jarrell, a first time Beltane attendee from Leeds was suitably impressed: “Beltane is unlike any event I’ve ever been to before. I didn’t know what to expect my first time, but got caught up in the immersive theatrical nature of it all. It’s not always clear what is happening and why, but that’s part of what makes it so magical. It’s this really visceral release of tension; a sense of wild abandonment and it feels like a celebration in its purest form.”
The festival was rekindled after a 100-year gap in 1988 and has grown into a huge spectacle with a five-figure budget.