When: 30th April 2017, from 8pm
Where: Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland
£: Tickets cost £8 (+ booking fee) in advance and £10 on the gate (cash payments only). Booking in advance is advisable
What is it?
On Sunday 30th April, the Beltane Fire Festival will return to Edinburgh’s Calton Hill, to welcome the onset of Summer. This will be the 13th Beltane Fire Festival to be held since it began in the 1980s.
The modern twist on an ancient Celtic tradition will mark the changing seasons with a wild mix of drums, fire and physical theatre, on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world.
The festival itself may have ancient Celtic roots (first recorded as celebrated by Celts in the first century AD), but the modern incarnation of Beltane has a history all of its own. Begun in 1988 by leading arts figure Angus Farquhar (of pioneering industrial music group, Test Dept), 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 Scotland’s capital. Steered by a creative team of hundreds of passionate volunteers, Edinburgh’s Beltane has developed its very own story.
Although Beltane is 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.
While these core elements and traditions are respected and retained, each year the volunteer community that brings Beltane together introduces new characters into the mix. Away from the main procession, other storylines are played out as different characters and groups emerge, interacting with each other and audience members. All brought to life with giant puppets, stunning costumes and – of course – fire. Rather than spoken theatre or music performed entirely on stages, Beltane takes a more investigative theatre approach, with few barriers between audience and performer, and performances taking place all around the hill and amongst the crowd.
This year’s festival will include giant puppets, intricate costumes, new fire sculptures and fire dancing moves. Calton Hill itself will be lit more than ever before, with dozens of willow lanterns and sculptures crafted by volunteers, dotted right across the event site.
The Beltane Fire Society are also working on a massive new fire arch (which performers process through in one of the key moments of the night), which they hope will provide an impressive spectacle, towering over the audience. Everyone involved has been invited to think big and explore the roots of the festival; back to ancient times, but also across the past thirty years of the event’s history in Edinburgh.
On Saturday 29th April (the day before the main event), Beltane Fire Society will also hold a Beltane Community Open Day on Calton Hill. It will be a chance for families and those interested in learning more about the festival and its roots, to come and chat to the organisers, hear stories told by some of Beltane’s characters, try out some traditional skills and picnic (1pm – 4pm, Calton Hill, attendance by donation).
More info: beltane.org/beltane-fire-festival-2017