Doctor Who and Avengers star Karen Gillan to lead revival of New York City 'Tartan Day' parade

Inverness-born Hollywood star Karen Gillan is to follow in the footsteps of Sir Billy Connolly, Sir Sean Connery, Brian Cox and Alan Cumming by leading the Tartan Day parade through the heart of New York City when it returns for the first time in three years in April.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 5:16 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 5:29 pm
Karen Gillan will become only the second woman to lead the Tartan Day parade through New York. Picture: Pako Mera
Karen Gillan will become only the second woman to lead the Tartan Day parade through New York. Picture: Pako Mera

Gillan, who shot to fame in Doctor Who and has gone on to star in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers blockbusters, is only the second woman to be handed the honour in the history of the event after KT Tunstall led the parade in 2018.

Sir Billy was the last Scot to be handed the honour of being the event’s “Grand Marshall” when the parade was last held in 2019.

Tunstall made headlines around the world with her Royal Stewart tartan suit when she lead the 2018 parade.

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Karen Gillan will be leading the Tartan Day parade through New York in April.

Other stars handed the honour include Trainspotting star Kevin McKidd, Outlander actors Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish, and kiltmaker Howie Nicholsby.

The event has been staged in the heart of New York City since 1999 – the year after the United States Senate agreed to designate a national Tartan Day each April.

The parade, the centrepiece of a week-long celebration of Scottish heritage, has previously attracted more than 30,000 spectators onto the streets of Manhattan.

Gillan was largely unknown before being cast opposite Matt Smith in Doctor Who, as Amy Pond. She went on to star in the Scottish feature films Outcast and Not Another Happy Ending, before landing a lead role in the Hollywood film Oculus.

The Scottish actress has achieved global stardom since playing Nebula in the Marvel superhero films, starting with Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, and as Ruby Roundhouse in two movies in the hit Jumanji franchise.

Gillan, who has lived in the United States for most of the past decade, also enjoyed success with the Inverness-set feature film The Party’s Just Beginning, which she wrote, directed and starred in.

An official announcement on the revival of the parade in April stated: “The National Tartan Day New York Committee is honoured to announce award-winning Scottish actress Karen Gillan as Grand Marshal of the 2022 Tartan Day Parade.

"The popular Scottish-themed event, entering its 24th year, will be held in midtown Manhattan on April 9, returning in person for the first time since 2019.

“Gillan will helm the parade, followed by a lively procession of pipes and drums bands, Highland dancers, Scottish clans, Shetlander Vikings and more.

“The annual celebration of Scottish heritage and culture brings together a rich tapestry of participants along with many thousands of spectators.”

Gillan said: “I am absolutely delighted to represent Scotland in the next Tartan Day Parade.

“I’m honoured to help celebrate Scotland in America and I look forward to playing a part in broadening the public’s awareness of Scotland’s history and cultural contributions.”

It was confirmed in September the Tartan Day parade would be returning.

Kyle Dawson, president of the New York Tartan Day Committee, said: “The swirl of kilts, the skirl of bagpipes and the cheers of thousands of spectators await.

“This beloved celebration of Scottish-American culture promises to be extraordinary in scope, talent and turnout as we gather in person once again.”