The British-Irish acoustic band Flook
photo: Nick David
THE LAST night of April at the Červený Kameň Castle in Slovakia and the Cheb Castle in the Czech Republic is the night of the Celts. Until noon the next day, people will dance to the live rhythms of international bands and attend various attractions reviving the cultural heritage shared throughout Europe.
Taking place in two countries - for the fourth year in Slovakia and the tenth in the Czech Republic - the biggest of four Celtic holidays, Beltine or the Day of Fire, starts at 20:00 on April 30. It has become the largest international festival of Celtic culture in central Europe and the fact it coincides with the celebration of European Union enlargement marks another turn.
"It is symbolic that the Celts, one of the first nations to unify Europe, celebrated the fire holiday of the pagan god Belen to bring a good summer harvest on the same day the festivities for the new members of the joined Europe, including Slovakia, take place. History keeps repeating," said Roman Kozák, from Keltieg, the association that organises the festival in Slovakia.
Roman Kozák, from Keltieg
photo: Courtesy of Roman Kozák
The festival will run for 16 hours non-stop. It will present local history and culture along with current happenings in Celtic culture around the world, especially in the territories of the so-called Celtic nations, which include Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Asturias and Galicia in northern Spain, and the French region of Brittany.
The Scottish band Shooglenifty, whose six members slip various modern genres into traditional tunes, will headline the Czech festival held behind the 12th century castle gates in the town of Cheb. Its neighbouring partner, Slovakia, will welcome the British-Irish acoustic band Flook, which is considered the best new group in the Celtic music genre.
"Energetically combining Celtic music with jazz, Flook will not only entertain but also satisfy real music lovers," Kozák said. He added that Shooglenifty performs in Slovakia three days later, on May 4, in the eastern town of Košice.
photo: Peter Hollý
Among the other bands visiting the Červený Kameň Castle near Bratislava are the traditional Curraggour Pipers & Drummers from Ireland, The Reelium band from Poland, and the Irish-Czech trio of traditional Irish music The Bottlewash Band. The organiser, Kozák's band Keltieg, will introduce a completely new line-up.
Visitors can learn new dances while observing shows delivered by a handful of Czech and Slovak ensembles. The historical fighting troupe Corvus Arma - Havrani will demonstrate the art of fencing, the members of Ursus will hold a fire show, Karol Pieta will lecture on Celtic findings in Slovakia, and various other attractions will take place, all while the Celtic trio - beer, medovina (mead), and whisky - is served.
The rich programme might well be enough stimulation that visitors won't want to close their eyes, but just in case this fails, bring a sleeping bag with you - a camp site is assured.
The Červený kameň Castle (Hrad Červený kameň) is located near Pezinok, about 40 kilometres north of Bratislava. Tickets to the whole festival cost Sk300, and Sk100 from 6:00 on May 1. For more information on the festival go to www.beltine.sk and to purchase tickets online visit www.ticketportal.sk. For information on the Czech part of the festival visit www.beltine.cz.