Edinburgh’s night sky burned bright to mark the coming of Mayday and summer as hundreds of performers gathered for the return of the Beltane, the largest celebration of its kind in the world.
The Beltane Fire Festival is a Celtic celebration of fire, new life and purity which marks the end of the darker seasons and the arrival of summer on Mayday.
The event brought together 250 performers, making it the largest celebration of its kind anywhere on the world, over the weekend.
Volunteers and spectators gathered atop the Capital’s Calton Hill to enjoy the festivities against a dramatic cityscape backdrop.
The event marked the return of Beltane for the first time since 2019 – the annual event repeatedly postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Calton Hill blazed with flaming torches, fire sculptures and a bonfire which lit up the National Monument. All the flames were, in a historic Beltane manner, lit by the tradition of neid-fire, a sacred flame started by friction alone.
Ahead of the celebration, Rosa Mackay, who took on the role of the May Queen and female figurehead of the night, said the return of the celebration and thousands of revellers felt “joyous”.
Ms Mackay said: “Beltane is a celebration of the coming of summer and this year we are also seeing this transition out of this intense time of isolation. It’s a joyous time.”
This year, the May Queen’s white and earth-tone costume was embroidered with hands, symbolising numerous themes affect women today and through history.
They represented the ‘grabbing’ of reproductive rights and the persecution of women accused of witchcraft throughout Scottish history.
Laura Mvula, Nadine Shah, Anna Meredith, Damon Albarn, Karine Polwart, Floating Points, Kathryn Joseph, Caribou and tUnE-yArDs are just some of the highlights from the eclectic lineup of music coming to Edinburgh as part of the International Festival
by Jamie Dunn | 02 Jun 2021
Oh, how we’ve missed the electricity and communal thrill of live performance. After over a year of empty stages, we’re tremendously excited to see the festivals and venues we love revealing their plans to make the tentative steps back to something close to normality. We’re particularly excited for Edinburgh to once again overflow with art with the return of the Edinburgh International Festival this summer, which is back with a global celebration of music, theatre and dance taking place 7-29 August.
“The programme we are announcing today represents a carefully organised return to live performance,” says Fergus Linehan, EIF’s director. “It is a collaborative effort between those who live in our city, our artists, the team at the festival, our donors and stakeholders and all who will be coming along to our performances.”
As ever, Linehan and his team will be bringing a world-class selection of work to the Scottish capital, with 170 performances announced this morning, covering everything from classical music and opera to star-studded theatre, dance and spoken word. We’re particularly excited about the eclectic contemporary music lineup, which features an enticing blend of brilliant Scottish artists alongside international talent.
Anna Meredith, Damon Albarn
First to catch the eye are two recent Scottish Album of the Year Award-winners and Skinny favourites: Anna Meredith and Kathryn Joseph. Meredith helped open EIF back in 2018 with the stunning audiovisual piece Five Telegrams, and the composer will be back again this year to perform music from her second album, FIBS. Meanwhile, Joseph will provide beautiful ballads from her debut Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled and its follow-up, From When I Wake the Want Is.
You’ll find more uber talented female voices on the bill with the soulful Laura Mvula, who’ll be bringing her brand of 80s new wave-inspired dance-pop, and Nadine Shah, who’ll be getting the chance to perform tracks from her fourth album, Kitchen Sink, in Scotland for the first time. Widely regarded as the voice of young African womanhood, Malian actress, musician and social activist Fatoumata Diawara, we’re told, will be tackling subjects such as “the pain of emigration, the struggles of African women and life under the rule of religious fundamentalists” with her first EIF performance.
Damon Albarn will be back at EIF this year accompanied by a band and string section. Expect performances of some of the iconic songs he’s recorded as part of Blur and Gorillaz, as well as from The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows, his current musical project inspired by the landscapes of Iceland, which he completed during lockdown and we’re tod explores “themes of fragility, emergence and rebirth”. And electronic music producer, DJ, and musician Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points will bring his euphoric live show to Edinburgh.
Folk, jazz, dance and trip-hop
Modern UK jazz will be well-represented at EIF this year with performances from Kokoroko, Moses Boyd and The Comet is Coming – the latter returning to Edinburgh with their explosive cosmic jazz rave. Scottish trad-heads, meanwhile, can look forward to Inverness-born fiddle player and composer Duncan Chisholm, Glasgow instrumental folk band RURA, instrumental trad trio Talisk, Gaelic supergroup Dàimh, all-female Scottish-English collective the Kinnaris Quintet, and Glasgow’s Breabach, who’ll be bringing their double bagpipes, Gaelic vocals and step dancing to EIF.
It was the box-office smash that turned a Scottish literary sensation into one of the most iconic British movies of all-time.
A quarter of a century after Trainspotting arrived in cinemas, its influence is still strongly felt, from the streets of Leith to Scotland’s film festivals. It is still regularly voted one of the best British films of all-time.
Released during a mid-1990s golden age for Scottish cinema, just months after Braveheart, Trainspotting was unlike anything that had been seen on screen before.
Launched with multiple premieres on the one night in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and a star-studded party in Cannes, its impact on Scottish culture has certainly not been surpassed since.
Although it will forever be linked to the Cool Britannia era of mid-1990s culture in the UK – partly thanks to the presence of Britpop bands like Pulp, Blur, Elastica and Sleeper on its soundtrack – its origins were in the late 1980s and early 1990s underground rave and publishing scenes in Edinburgh.
Leith-born Irvine Welsh drew on his experiences of being brought up in the Muirhouse estate for Trainspotting, extracts of which were published in the magazine Rebel Inc, before the book was released to critical acclaim and huge word-of-mouth buzz in 1993.
Less than two years later, an Edinburgh-set thriller, Shallow Grave, announced the arrival of new British director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, screenwriter John Hodge and Scottish star Ewan McGregor. All four were to reunite for Trainspotting, along Ewen Bremner, who had starred in the stage adaptation of Welsh’s book, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle and Kelly Macdonald, a total newcomer who had an answered an advert for a open casting session. The success of the book and Shallow Grave, combined with a striking poster campaign, meant expectations were sky high.
Allan Hunter, film critic and co-director of the Glasgow Film Festival, recalled: “Trainspotting felt like an explosion of fireworks on a dull grey sky when it arrived.
“Danny Boyle’s bravura direction brings such energy and drive to the story. It made British films (and Scottish films) seem cool. The marketing was so slick and unforgettable. It became the film that everyone wanted to be associated with.
“It really was a hurricane that blew all the cobwebs away and it became a symbol of social and political change in a country heading towards the election of Tony Blair and the giddy days of Cool Britannia.”
Filmmaker Mark Cousins, director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival from 1996-97, said: “It felt that a spotlight was put on Edinburgh.
“People knew that the city was cultured, beautiful, and a place of festivals, but we were seen as a bit Brigadoon – sleepy then bursting into life in August.
“Trainspotting was hyper, local, fizzy and surreal. It made me feel young, cinematic and dangerous.”
Home to portraits, rare books and personal objects including Burns’ writing desk, the printing press on which Scott’s Waverley Novels were first produced, and the rocking horse he used as a child. We have Robert Louis Stevenson’s riding boots and the ring given to him by a Samoan chief, engraved with the name ‘Tusitala’, meaning ‘teller of tales’. There is also a plaster cast of Robert Burns’ skull, one of only three ever made.
This free museum is easy to locate just off the Lawnmarket, the top part of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, in Lady Stair’s Close.
With a wide range of stories and objects this museum has something for everyone to enjoy, whether young or old, local resident or visitor. You don’t need to have read these writers’ works to enjoy the fascinating life stories told in the Writers’ Museum.
Collection Highlights include:
The Writers’ rich collections include books, manuscripts, portraits and fascinating personal items relating to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Highlights include a first edition of Scott’s novel Waverley and Stevenson’s beloved classic, A Child’s Garden of Verses. Manuscripts include Burns’ draft of Scots wha hae (‘Bruce’s Address to his troops at Bannockburn’). There is also the press on which Scott’s Waverley Novels were printed, a chair used by Burns to correct proofs at William Smellie’s printing office, and Stevenson’s wardrobe made by the infamous Deacon Brodie whose double life may have inspired the novel The strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.