10,000 to attend Beltane fire parade on Halloween

The organisers of Edinburgh’s annual Beltane celebration are to stage a colourful parade through the city centre for the first time on Halloween.
The Samhuinn event features the battle between the Summer King and the Prince of Winter. Picture: TSPLThe Samhuinn event features the battle between the Summer King and the Prince of Winter. Picture: TSPL
The Samhuinn event features the battle between the Summer King and the Prince of Winter. Picture: TSPL

Police and council chiefs have given permission for the procession to make its way from the Old Town to Princes Street during the event, which celebrates the ancient Celtic calendar and the changing of the seasons.

Around 100 performers are expected to follow a route taking in the High Street and Cockburn Street, before the parade splits off from the audience top stage a dramatic parade of fire, giant puppets and drummers through East Princes Street Gardens.

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It is hoped more than 10,000 revellers will take to the heart of the capital for the two-hour Samhuinn event, which will start at the historic Mercat Cross next to St Giles’ Cathedral and culminate in a finale on a temporary stage to be built beside the Scottish National Gallery which will depict the “overthrowing of winter”.

Fire sculptures, pyrotechnics, acrobatics and martial events will feature in the new event. It is being staged 26 years after the launch of the first ever Beltane Fire Festival on Calton Hill, which was watched by around 100 people and involved just five performers.

The event has grown to become a world-famous celebration which regularly attracts more than 10,000 people to the landmark on the last day of April, to watch several hundred performers stage a celebration marking the onset of summer and the ancient Gaelic May Day.

The Beltane Fire Society, which runs the event on Calton Hill, has staged a much more modest celebration on Halloween in Parliament Square since 1995, but has decided to expand the event into a major procession, street theatre and performance celebration to mark “the turn of the seasons” in Edinburgh.

While the Calton Hill event in April sees a May Queen and a Green Man spark the birth of summer by lighting a huge bonfire, the Halloween celebration will see a large cast of characters from ancient Celtic lore stage a fight for supremacy between the reigning Summer King and the Prince of Winter, which will be overseen by the mysterious goddess figure Cailleach.

Erin Gray, spokeswoman for the Beltane Fire Society, said: “Samhuinn is a re-imagining of an ancient festival celebrating the turn of the seasons.

“It’s also inspired by Celtic myths and old Scots folk performances known as Galoshan plays, where guisers used to perform on the streets for local people on All Hallows Eve.

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“Many people are aware that something happens in Edinburgh on the 31 October, but few really know the story and what’s going on, even as they watch it.

“The new parade route gives us lots of possibilities – we’re creating a mini-mountain for the goddess to awaken from and a giant puppet that will protect her and act out her wishes.”

Steve Cardownie, festivals and events champion at the city council, said: “The Samhuinn Fire Festival on Halloween is really shaping into a community event and this is a great way for residents and those from further afield to appreciate late-night Edinburgh

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