Beltane to mark the 25th year of fire festival

The evening will conclude with the fire performers and the Red Men
The evening will conclude with the fire performers and the Red Men
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FIRE sculptures large enough to be seen from Princes Street will be wheeled out for a bumper Beltane festival tonight.

A record crowd of more than 12,000 spectators is expected to mark the 25th anniversary of the festival on Calton Hill as over 300 performers and members of the Beltane Fire Society unite to welcome the coming of summer.

The festival, which began back in 1988 as a word of mouth protest against the Thatcher government’s restrictions on rights to gather, has blossomed into one of the Capital’s most established festivals.

And this year organisers are pulling out all the stops to make this quarter-century celebration a truly special occasion.

Beltane Fire Society chair, Matthew Richardson, said: “Today marks a significant milestone for the Beltane Fire Festival as we celebrate our 25th anniversary. It’s amazing to think how the festival has grown in size and stature since its inception in 1988.

“We’ll be upping the ante on the visual element so it really has the wow factor. We’ve increased the number of fire sculptures and installations to give spectators a real sense of fire being present everywhere on Calton Hill, and these will be even more spectacular and more visible from the surrounding city than ever before.”

A new performance space surrounded by a ring of fire sculptures, which will feature a breath-taking performance by fire drummers has been created.

And acclaimed Scottish singer and folklorist Margaret Bennett has joined the bill for the late-night Grand May Day Ceilidh at The Caves.

The festival gets under way at 8pm tonight, when eye-catching fire sculptures will illuminate the hill and colourful performers will roam amongst the crowds.

As darkness falls, spectators will gather at the Acropolis for the arrival of the May Queen, who will lead a procession of fire performers around Calton Hill.

The Neid fire on the Parthenon will then be lit to a backdrop of fire and drums before the procession continues around the hill.

Following this the Red Men and their Beastie Drummers will ambush the court before the Green Man is ritually killed by the May Queen, stripped of his winter guise and resurrected in his spring guise.

The evening will conclude with a sensational finale as the fire performers and Red Men join together for a fire performance.

Tickets for the event are £6 in advance and can be purchased online from The Hub, Ripping Records and Ticket Scotland or alternatively, a limited number of tickets will be available tonight – these tickets will cost £8 and will only be available from Calton Hill’s Carriage Drive entrance, on Regent Road.

From winter to summer

8pm: Gates open.

8.30pm: A ‘percussive delicacy’ from Waa Sylla.

8.45pm - 9.15pm: The Path of Winter – watch several performance groups in their winter states.

9.15pm - 9.30pm: The Crone Cocoons – the dying embodiment of winter cocoons and transforming into The May Queen.

9.30pm - 9.45pm: The Neid Fire – the first flames of summer are brought to life on the Acropolis, and the May Queen emerges from her winter cocoon, ready to begin the journey to summer.

9.45pm - 10.30pm: The Procession – in order to persuade the Horned God to cast off winter and embrace summer the May Queen, surrounded by the light from the Neid Fire, takes the Green Man on a journey into the spirit world.

10.30pm - 11pm: The Fool – the Winter King casts off his winter coat and transforms into an adventurous fool.

11pm - Midnight: Death and Rebirth – at this stage the Fool is killed by the May Queen, and is then given the gift of new life to emerge as the young Green Man of spring.

Midnight: The Bonfire – a celebration of the arrival of summer with the heat and light of the bonfire representing the cleansing energy of the summer sun.

Finally, the drumming groups lead the audience off the hill to the beat of the Beltane drums.