Samhuinn Fire Festival set for Grassmarket debut

Last year's Samhuinn Fire Festival. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Last year's Samhuinn Fire Festival. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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The spectacular Samhuinn Fire Festival will take place in the Grassmarket this year for the first time as it marks its 20th anniversary.

The annual Hallowe’en pageant, a modern re-imagining of an ancient pagan ritual, is also set to begin at an earlier time to make it more family friendly.

The move by volunteers from the Beltane Fire Society comes after last year’s 
procession became overcrowded on The Mound.

Lila O’Leary, of the society, said that the event in 2014 had been so busy it had led to the unplanned closure of Market Street.

She added that the new start time of 7pm was to co-ordinate with Family Samhuinn earlier in the day, making it easier for anyone with children to attend.

The fire festival – heralding the death of summer and the birth of winter – will bring a host of volunteer performers with fire, drums and wild costumes to the Old Town for an evening of revelry.

There will be a short procession featuring cloaked torchbearers, culminating in an epic fight for supremacy between the reigning Summer King and the harsh Prince of Winter.

David Simpson, festival secretary, said: “We are really excited to bring Samhuinn Festival to the Grassmarket for its 20th anniversary.

“It will be a fantastic setting for our atmospheric Hallowe’en night event.

“We have so much planned to entertain everyone who will be joining us, from drums and fire to impressive stage performances and drama.

“Our performers will act out the battle between the summer and winter kings, keeping ancient traditions alive.”

The Beltane Fire Society, a charity run by volunteers, is dedicated to marking the fire festivals of the ancient Celtic calendar and keeping traditional Scottish skills of street theatre, music and pageantry alive. The modern event has been held in Edinburgh since 1995.

Beltane, the festival which welcomes the return of summer, takes place on Calton Hill on the last day of April, and has been running since 1988.

The main performance areas this year will be located within the pedestrianised area of the Grassmarket.