City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

A Few Facts and Figures About Our Festival


By Editor - Posted on 01 April 2007

Beltane Fire Society celebrates the coming of summer with Edinburgh's annual Beltane Fire Festival, a revival of the ancient Celtic fertility festival.

Beltane Fire Festival 2007
Monday 30th April, Calton Hill, Edinburgh
9pm - 1am

The Beltane Fire Society reports:

2007 will see us celebrate our 20th birthday with 12,000 people, having over this time built an internationally renowned reputation for community and performance art.

The festival brings together drumming, revelry and fire performance to accompany a fantastical procession led by the May Queen and her Court, the culmination of the magical mood that has been building in of anticipation of the new life the summer season will bring.

A few facts and figures

  • Each year 10,000 voluntary man-hours are given in an eight week period
  • Around 300 performers spend £15,000 on costumes, rehearsal contributions, and more
  • 100m2 cloth used for White Warrior Women's costumes ...compared with the scantily clad Red Men very little!
  • The event costs £40,000 to stage.
  • The Beltane Fire Society pays £5,000 in insurance premiums.
  • £2,800 is paid by Beltane Fire Society to Edinburgh City Council to clean hill to their standards

Historically

  • The Society has proved a creative springboard for musicians, performance and visual artists
  • The event is environmentally sound: Edinburgh City Council has never considered Beltane Fire Festival to have caused damage to Calton Hill
  • 5,000 performers over 20 years
  • 150,000 audience members over 20 years
  • 7,500 litres kerosene used over this time
  • 1,200 fire brands made
  • White Warrior Women have made at least 45,000 flowers for their costumes
  • At least 2 Red Men have performed with broken limbs
  • And an unknown number of children have been conceived!

New for 2007: Beltane Programme

As a further celebration of our 20th anniversary, the Beltane Fire Society and Australian theatre company FEET Theatre introduce a special events programme:

Taking place from 21st to 29th April in venues around Edinburgh, the programme is a series of events, exhibitions, forums and workshops available to the wider Edinburgh community. These aim to celebrate the heritage of the festival, its ancient and recent pasts, to examine Scottish folk traditions and ritual theatre processes, and to provide a deeper understanding of the Beltane Fire Festival's narrative and themes.

Beltane Fire Festival: The story

The sacred Neid Fire is lit on the Acropolis.
Torches are lit to reveal the May Queen, the Queen of Summer.
Leading the Horned God and flanked by her White Warrior Women and Processional Drummers, the May Queen's way is guided by Blue Men, druidic spirit guides and the guardians of the ritual.

The procession passes anti-clockwise around Calton Hill, the May Queen awakening the elements of Air, Earth, Water and Fire.

The Court is ambushed by the Red Men and their Beastie Drummers - spirits from the underworld who embody chaos, mischief and lust. Their advance is blocked by the truth, law and order of their opposites, the proud White Warrior Women. Safe now, the procession continues to its climax.

The Horned God now dares to touch the May Queen

He is stripped of his winter coat in punishment, to be reborn as the Green Man, the first new growth of the Summer, and then crowned by the May Queen. Together they light the sacred fire that in ancient times was believed to purify cattle and villagers alike in preparation for the new season.

Order and Chaos are then reconciled as Red entice White to spirited dance.

The Society

Is a not-for-profit organisation, managed by a voluntary committee.

All 300 or so performers are volunteers who give a substantial amount of time to, and on the whole self-fund, their rehearsals, costumes and props.

Does not receive any public funding.

In recent years rising costs have unfortunately necessitated ticketing.