Blaze of glory for Beltane festival

A scene from Beltane last year.
A scene from Beltane last year.
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A faerie garden of giant glowing toadstools and never- before-seen fire displays will form part of this year’s world- famous Beltane Festival.

Each year local volunteers form a procession of fire, drums and dancers on Calton Hill to mark the death of winter and the rebirth of summer.

The festival tonight will feature the international debut of ‘Spark’, a spectacular interactive sound and light performance .

And the Candlemakers of Edinburgh, a part of celebrations as far back as medieval times, will also reprise their role.

Performers will be using fire “in dramatic ways not seen before”, although organisers remained tight-lipped about the details, to avoid spoiling the surprise.

But the festival’s Alexa Ledecky said it would be “spectacular” and “totally different”, on a par with last year’s fire-breathing dragon.

Crowds of up to 6,000 attended the 2014 Beltane Fire Festival and numbers this year are expected to be “even greater”, she added.

Hundreds of volunteer performers will welcome in the summer with more than 40 drums, fire dancing, fire sculptures and flame torches.

The event will also include a huge performance on the national monument, a procession of weird and wonderful characters awakening from their winter sleep around the hill.

Celebrations take place as the sun sets on the last night of April and culminate in the lighting of a huge bonfire by the incarnation of summer, the May Queen, and her counterpart the Green Man.

The Beltane Fire Society, the charity of volunteers who run the event, have said their modern take on an ancient Celtic festival will be an “incredible spectacle”.

Lila O’Leary, festival secretary of the Beltane Fire Society, said: “Beltane is a huge community project, kept alive and reinvented every year by hundreds of dedicated volunteers.

“The night itself is always special, the result of months of hard work, and this year will be particularly impressive.

“We’re going all out with dazzling fire performances, mysterious characters and stunning costumes.”

The modern Beltane Fire Festival has run since 1988 and is the spring and summer counterpart to Samhuinn Fire Festival, which is held in the city centre on October 31.

The events are modern re-imaginings of ancient Celtic festivals marking the turning seasons. The Beltane Fire Society is dedicated to marking the fire festivals of the ancient Celtic calendar and keeping traditional Scottish pageantry alive.