Samhuinn Fire Festival is set to light up the heart of Edinburgh tonight to mark the end of summer and rise of winter. Organisers the Beltane Fire Society say the event will blend ancient and modern like never before, with ancient celtic traditions, fire, drumming and acrobatics combined with pyrotechnics, martial arts, a new route and real-time social media updates.
This year Samhuinn, the event held in Edinburgh every Halloween night to mark the turning seasons, will have space for more spectators than ever as it takes on a new, much bigger route that will culminate at a stage at the Mound Precinct by Princes Street.
The society will also be telling the story via social media in real time with tweets, photos and updates using hashtag #Samhuinn2014, so everyone can get involved in the event, understand more of what’s going on and share their own experience of the night.
Event co-ordinator Sara Thomas said: “We want everyone to join us tonight. It’s a chance to witness a truly unique event, and be part of a traditional Celtic celebration of the end of summer and beginning of winter. This year spectators can expect a new procession route, fire, mischief, celebration, drumming and tragedy.
“With the weather already turning, can the King of Summer defend his realm against the oncoming cold, or will the Prince of Winter prevail? Also this year we’re taking the story online on the night too: use #Samhuinn2014 to share your experience of the night on social media, and get our real-time updates on what’s happening.”
The celebration will begin at 9pm at the High Street, with a procession of drums, fire and characters from celtic lore making their way from the High Street at the Royal Mile, down Cockburn Street. From there the public can make their way up Market Street and down Playfair Steps and watch as the procession will split away and make its way through East Princes Street Gardens, ready to re-emerge for the main battle between the forces of summer and winter on the stage at the Mound Precinct by Princes Street.
Spike Nisbet, the 31-year-old from Leith who’s performing the role of the Prince of Winter at the festival this year, said: “Samhuinn is a Hallowe’en unlike any other. The sort that can only come from hundreds of performers, all of whom steadfastly refuse to be grown-ups. It all comes down to the people.
“This whole event is organised, funded annd performed by volunteers. Most of us are working full-time jobs as well as rehearsing our performances and making our own costumes. It wouldn’t be possible unless we all absolutely loved what we were doing and I think that comes through on the night.
“What can you expect tonight? Spectacle. Everything is larger than life. All the parts of the performance, from the manic excesses of the summer Reds to the feral savagery of the Wild Hunt. By way of spinning balls of flame, pyrotechnics and sword fighting. I can also confide that the Prince of Winter is devastatingly handsome this year.”
Haddington man Ian Stuart is a Beltane Fire Society trustee and is also performing the role of the King of Summer tonight. He said: “I’m 50 this year, and generally an introvert. I don’t know if this is my mid-life crisis, but I think performing in a Beltane Fire Society event is the perfect way to challenge myself!
“It’s a great thing to be part of because Beltane Fire Society is full of wonderful, vibrant, different people, and we’re like a family. It’s hard to describe what we’ll be sharing with Edinburgh tonight without over-using the word ‘amazing’. I can say that there will be drums, acrobatics, sword-play, and the death of a king.”
Attendance at Samhuinn is by donation on the night, with no ticket needed.
The event is organised by the Beltane Fire Society, a charity run by volunteers, dedicated to marking the fire festivals of the ancient celtic calendar and keeping traditional Scottish skills of street theatre, music and pageantry alive.
Samhuinn has been held in Edinburgh since 1995. Its spring and summer counterpart, Beltane, takes place on Calton Hill on the last day of April each year, and has been running since 1988.