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Thousands mark start of summer at pagan fire festival

FIRE, frolics and facepaint were on show in the centre of Edinburgh last night as the annual Beltane Fire Festival swept across Calton Hill.

FIRE AND RAIN: This year's festival was hit by downpours but they could not stop revellers having fun. Pictures: Julie Howden
FIRE AND RAIN: This year's festival was hit by downpours but they could not stop revellers having fun. Pictures: Julie Howden

The event marks the start of summer in the capital with participants dancing around a bonfire in a mass celebration of the death of winter and the birth of summer.

The festival draws inspiration from ancient Gaelic and pagan traditions to entertain more than 12,000 spectators with dancing and fire displays overlooking the city centre.

A cast of characters, including the magisterial May Queen and the red men, performed before the central bonfire was lit and the summer celebrations got underway.

The key elements of the performance have remained over the years with the procession of May Queen, the death and rebirth of the Green Man and the lighting of the bonfire.

Yet over the years the stories leading you to each area are varied depending on the performers.

This year's event was the biggest to date in terms of the cast and and scale of the pyrotechnics.

The night-time spectacular has been two months in the planning with more than 300 volunteers chipping in to make sure everything went off without a hitch.

A public meeting was held in February to gather the groups and find a host of actors, musicians, storytellers and fire spinners to help create the event.

The procession started at 7.30pm, taking in various performances across Calton Hill before ending with the central performance and lighting of the bonfire around 9.15pm.

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