Beacons at Bealtaine

Department of Foreign Affairs

bigO created a short film, Beacons at Bealtaine, for the Department of Foreign Affairs to mark the 20th anniversary of the Day of Welcomes, the greatest single expansion of the European Union.

On May Day, 2004, Ireland, as president of the European Union, hosted the Day of Welcomes at Áras an Uachtaráin in the Phoenix Park, as Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Poland joined the EU. To mark this momentous event, the Irish government commissioned Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney to write a poem, “Beacons at Bealtaine”, which he read at the ceremony.

Our film features performers from each of these ten European states reciting lines from Heaney’s poem, both in English and in their own native language, as well as opening and closing lines from Heaney’s own reading in 2004. 

Additionally, we filmed in Phoenix Park, capturing both the nature of this auspicious place that provided Heaney with such inspiration for the poem, as well as the work of the lamplighters who tend to the park’s antique gas lamps, and who provided a fitting correlate to the Bealtaine bonfires referenced in the verse. The film is set to a compelling score by Irish composer and musician Gareth Quinn Redmond.

The project was a partnership between the DFA, Literature Ireland and the Heaney Estate.

Beacons at Bealtaine 013

“There’s something auspicious about the fact that this new flocking together, of the old European nations occurs on the feast of Bealtaine. And there’s something even more auspicious about the fact that it occurs in this park, called after the Phoenix, the mythic bird that represents the possibility of constant renewal.”


—Seamus Heaney, Phoenix Park, May Day, 2004

“Move lips, move minds, make new meanings flare
Like ancient beacons signalling, peak to peak,
From middle sea to north sea, shining clear
As phoenix flames upon fionn uisce here.”
—Seamus Heaney, Beacons at Bealtaine, 2001


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