Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo: Organisers promise a 'new direction' as extravaganza is staged for first time in three years

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has revealed it wants to attract more local audiences to and transform “elitist” perceptions under a new direction for the annual cultural showpiece.

By Brian Ferguson
Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 4:07 pm

A new team of organisers are hoping to persuade more Scots to try the event for the first time, with more domestic marketing campaigns and earlier performance times.

Extra shows are being planned for future years as part of a shake-up aimed at attracting younger audiences and shedding the event of its “tartan and shortbread” image.

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A shake-up planned for this year will see the esplanade transformed by the latest digital technology technology and pop-up stages.

However, the Tattoo’s new creative director, New Zealander Michael Braithwaite, has insisted the most popular events of the Tattoo will remain “sacrosanct” when it is staged for the first time in three years this summer.

Performers from Mexico, the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will be among the cast of more than 800 musicians, singers and dancers.

The event, which runs for three weeks, has been staged at the iconic landmark since 1950 and is seen by an estimated 100 million television viewers every year, as well as the 220,000-strong audience in Edinburgh.

Spectacular: The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is one of the most colourful events in the city.

Acts lined up for the 2022 show include the 100-strong Banda Monumental de Mexico, who will be bringing their crowd-pleasing Mariachi music and dance routines, the Washington-based United States Army Field Band, Switzerland’s Top Secret Drum Corps, one of the world’s celebrated drumming outfits famed for its array of routines and special effects, and the New Zealand Army Band.

The comeback production, which will have a theme of "voices”, will also feature the Tattoo debut of New York-based all-female singing trio The Highland Divas.

The Tattoo’s chief executive, Major General Buster Howes, who is overseeing the event for the first time, said: “We feel passionately that the Edinburgh Festival, and particularly the Tattoo, makes both Edinburgh and Scotland a better place.

"There’s evidence from polls which indicates that Edinburgh’s residents feel that the summer festivals make this a better city and a better place to live.

Performers from The Top Secret Drum Corps are expected to be among the star attractions at this year's Tattoo.

"This year the Tattoo should be about us handing back and saying ‘thank you, it’s your festival and your Tattoo’ and encouraging the local sensibility of people.

"Sometimes there’s a sense that it is up there, it’s out of people’s reach and a little bit elitist, because there are a lots of people clunking around in uniforms, but it absolutely is not.

“It’s a spectacular event for everybody and a real piece of Scottish iconography.

"I would challenge anybody to come to the event and not be amazed by it. They will come out of the event with the lightness of being. It really is the most joyful and energising thing.”

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a massive crowd-pleaser. Pic: Ian Georgeson

Major General Howes, a former commandant general of the Royal Marines and head of the British Defence staff in the United States under the Barack Obama administration, described Mr Braithwaite, who was appointed creative director last year, as “the mad professor” of the new Tattoo team.

He previously worked for Warner Brothers on the Harry Potter film franchise, and with the Jim Henson Company, creators of The Muppets. Mr Braithwaite was also producer for the-then London Mayor Boris Johnson's outdoor festival during the London Olympics.

Mr Braithwaite said: “The core traditions of the Tattoo remain sacrosanct, such as the massed piped drums, the military bands, and our embracing of Scottish and world culture.

"But innovation has always been a tradition of the Tattoo since the beginning. We’re going to continue that with new production techniques and new designers. We’ll be making the show more energetic and contemporary, and will be adding pace, vigour and action to it.

"It’ll be the Tattoo that people know, but it’ll be exciting and forward-looking, it’s not trapped in the past. We’ll carry forward the traditions that make it wonderful, but will add excitement, surprise and spectacle.

"It will be the beginning of a new epoch of the Tattoo, which will be fresher, faster and will have more pace and energy. We’ll be dazzling people with our production techniques and staging.”

Mr Braithwaite said this year’s production would feature physical staging for the first time in the Tattoo’s history, .

He said: “It’s an extremely challenging venue to do anything like that, but we’ve spent a lot of time research and developing different approaches, and have cracked something for this year that we’re quite excited about presenting.

"This year will mark the beginning of a new approach we want to build on over the next two or three years.

“We’ll have a whole new approach to costume design and to projection and lighting. The new rig we've got going in will be megawatt compared to what was used before on the event.

"We’ll be very much enhancing the bedrock of the show. I never believe in adding effect for effect’s sake. It’s about building the story and showing all the performers in the best possible light.”

Lynsey Fusco, head of marketing at the Tattoo, said extra effort had gone into targeting domestic audiences since sales were launched for this year’s show.

She said: “We've had to think a bit differently this year. We’ve been working really hard to connect with a wider audience to make sure that they the Tattoo is for everyone.

"People often say to us that their experience of the show is very different to what they expected. We’ve been really pushing that message hard this year.

"We’ve sold out about 60 per cent of available tickets for the show at the moment, with about 70 per cent of those sales from within the UK.

“What we expect to see, and certainly what we are hearing from friends and partners in the other festivals and the entertainment world, is that people are buying tickets for events much later on.”