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Friday, 13 April, 2001, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Cold feet over fire walking
Princes Street gardens
The idea was part of the science festival in Edinburgh
Insurance companies have got cold feet over plans to let the public try out fire walking in Edinburgh.

Now proposals to let people walk barefoot over hot coals as part of the city's International Science Festival have gone up in smoke.

Organisers had wanted to let volunteers attempt the feat after they had heard the scientific explanation of how it can be done safely.

But festival director Dr Simon Gage says he could not find an insurance company willing to provide cover.

It's a fantastic thing to do and we fully intend to demonstrate the principle and explain to people how it's possible to walk on the coals without getting burned

Dr Simon Gage, festival director
He says the event will go ahead on Saturday afternoon in West Princes Street Gardens, but only as a demonstration.

Organisers had hoped to show that there was nothing mystical or supernatural about the activity.

Dr Gage said he had approached scores of insurance companies, including firms who insure bungee jump events, circuses and dangerous sports clubs.

"I'm very disappointed that the insurance industry has changed its view on this since the last time we organised fire walking for the public," he said.

"It's a fantastic thing to do and we fully intend to demonstrate the principle and explain to people how it's possible to walk on the coals without getting burned.

"There's nothing mystical about it."

Firewalking graphic
A demonstration will take place instead
Meanwhile, a former professional magician was planning to unravel some of the secrets surrounding the fabled Indian rope trick.

Peter Lamont, a former president of the Magic Circle in Edinburgh, is lecturing on "The Magic of India" on Friday night as part of the festival.

He plans to reveal some of the secrets behind famous tricks such as human levitation, body impaling and the rope trick.

"The aim is to help people understand what's going on without telling them the specifics and spoiling their future entertainment or a colleague's livelihood," he said.

Mr Lamont argues that the rope trick is a Western-made myth which first arose in the late Victorian era.

He has himself given up trying the feat, saying: "I personally don't believe it can be done."

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