As we start to enjoy the longer days and better weather, it feels as though summer is nearly here. In fact, it’s not far away now. And if you’re ready for the summer, why not join the May Queen and Green Man to welcome it in? This evening, the Beltane Fire Festival returns to Edinburgh’s Calton Hill with fire displays and glorious costumes.
This modern twist on an ancient Celtic tradition marks the changing seasons with a mix of storytelling and performance. Expect a bewildering blend of drums, fire and physical theatre, as the May Queen leads a procession of followers and revellers.
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. Together they light the traditional Beltane bonfire in celebration of the life and warmth ahead in the summer months.
Beltane Fire Festival’s ancient roots and modern feel
The festival itself may have ancient Celtic roots – first recorded as a Celtic celebration in the first century AD – but the modern incarnation of Beltane has a history all of its own. It started in 1988 thanks to the creative thinking of arts figure Angus Farquhar, of pioneering industrial music group Test Dept. Beltane Fire Festival is a chance for volunteer performers, and the audience alike, to celebrate freedom and creativity. And an opportunity to reconnect with nature and the changing of the seasons, right in the heart of Scotland’s capital.
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.
Beltane has few barriers between audience and performer; taking place all around the hill and amongst the crowd. The story is all brought to life with giant puppets, stunning costumes, and – of course – fire.
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When: 30th April 2022, from 7.30pm
Where: Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland
£: Tickets cost £16.74 for adults and £5.78 for children (includes booking fee)
More info: beltane.org