Festival fights fire with fire
A FEAST of flames, flesh and fertility came to Calton Hill with the annual Beltane Fire Festival.
Organisers estimated that 11,000 people flocked to the hill for the pagan-inspired celebration last night, watching 350 performers in costumes and body paint dance and drum the hours away.
As night fell, 16 black-clad figures with flaming torches mounted the National Monument and set light to three huge images of spring which hung between the pillars, before guiding the May Queen on a procession around the hill.
Trailed by a cortege including dancers sporting nothing but red body paint and thongs, she and her suitor, the Green Man, stopped to perform several pageants around the hillside.
The spectacular climaxed with the final tableau, when the pounding drums accompanied the defeat and resurrection of the Green Man.
A bonfire was lit as the semi-naked red dancers built a human pyramid, and the entertainment closed with Japanese Taiko drummers from the Mugen Taiko Dojo centre in Lanarkshire.
Producer Rob Sproul-Cran said: "It's been hugely enjoyable and the crowd were wonderful, really well behaved and really happy. It's been a lot of work for four months, but it was all worthwhile.
"Everyone involved has been exemplary in their behaviour and conduct. It's a shining example of what can be achieved by total amateurs and inexperienced non-professionals, who got involved because this is something they fell in love with.
"The fact that we manage to pull off something on this scale every year is, frankly, astounding."
The Beltane Fire Festival is based on ancient pagan rituals traditionally held on hillsides to welcome the height of spring.
Members of the crowd agreed that the night had been a success. Student Lewis Williamson, 21, from Marchmont, said: "I've been a couple of times before and it's a bit hit and miss as to whether you make it into the right sections of the crowd to see anything, but the atmosphere as ever is excellent."
Ian Jamieson, 30, from Dalry, who works for the Care Commission, said: "It's the first time I've been to Beltane, and it was really enjoyable."
Police said the night had gone peacefully, with no arrests.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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