Festival attracts bumper crowds to watch fire

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A CELTIC festival has once more been hailed a success after attracting big crowds again this year.

More than 2,000 people travelled to Butser Ancient Farm, near Clanfield, to enjoy the Beltaine festival.

Money raised at the festival will go towards building a new visitor centre, toilets and farm shop.

As in previous years, the biggest attraction was the burning of the 35ft high wicker man, who this year symbolised a farmer cutting his crops.

The night’s sky in the valley, in the heart of the South Downs, was lit up as the huge straw man went up in flames.

The festival celebrates the start of summer with the burning of fires and has been celebrated across the British Isles for thousands of years.

Julie Sherwood, 57, from Havant, was one of the revellers and said she wanted to come again after enjoying the festival so much last year.

She said: ‘You come here and everyone is so free and happy.

‘This is about bringing in the summer and it’s quite spectacular.

‘It’s part of our heritage.’

The crowds were entertained by music from Feckless and The Day of the Rabblement, Arabian belly dancing by Ishtar, a performance from the Weorod medieval re-enactment society, mummers players, and a falconry display.

Funding co-ordinator Mary Saunders said: ‘The wicker man went up beautifully and burnt very quickly.’