Tattoo chief quits after overseeing just two runs of the Edinburgh Castle spectacular
The chief executive of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has left the role after overseeing just two runs of the world-famous show.
Major General Buster Howes is understood to have departed for "personal reasons."
He was the event's first stand-alone chief executive under a management shake-up which saw the Tattoo appoint its first creative director, Michael Braithwaite.
However it is thought that Major General Howes, who was on the Tattoo board for five years before being appointed chief executive, did not relocate from his home in the south of England after taking on his role in June 2020.
Major General Howes did not give a reason for his departure in the official statement announcing he was stepping down, other than to suggest his “task is completed.”
He was appointed to succeed long-standing Tattoo figurehead Brigadier David Allfrey, who was in the role for 10 years, but saw his final event cancelled due to the pandemic, which also coincided with its 70th anniversary.
His successor had a difficult and at times controversial tenure, with the 2021 Tattoo called off less than three months before it was due to be held due to uncertainty over the lifting of Covid restrictions in Scotland and whether public funding could be used to underwrite an eleventh-hour cancellation after spectator stands had been built.
Earlier this year he revealed that the Tattoo would have been left with a £12 million bill if Queen Elizabeth had died during the 2022 run of the show.
Major General Howes became embroiled in a row with the Cockburn Association, the long-running heritage group in Edinburgh, when he accused it of wanting to turn the city centre into an "empty medieval theme park" over its campaigns against overtourism and festivalisation.
The former Royal Marines commander - who suggested the Cockburn Association was pursuing an agenda that “the best city is an empty city" - was responding to a blog by then chair, Cliff Hague, suggesting that the festival and tourism sectors, the city council and the Scottish Government were in an "echo chamber insulated from real engagement with civil society”.
His departure has emerged amid a series of leadership shake-ups in Edinburgh's festivals landscape. The Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival have all appointed new figureheads in the last 18 months, while a new management team is being formed to lead the recovery of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Bill Morris,chair of the Tattoo board said, “Buster led the Tattoo brilliantly through one of the toughest periods in its history with the global pandemic forcing two years of cancellation.
“He and his team demonstrated resilience and fierce character to bring this iconic event back to Edinburgh`s famous castle esplanade, rejuvenated and stronger than ever.
“I am, with the entire board, immensely grateful for his huge contribution over many years on the board and as chief executive, and we wish him well for his next projects.”
Major General Howes said: “I was a marine for some years and spent long periods at sea. Supply ships play ‘breakaway’ music when their task is completed.
“Music is surely the first language of the Tattoo, so I have reflected on what my ‘breakaway’ tune might now be: The Black Bear, with all its vivid associations of the march-off, its energy and brawling pipes; or Stevie Small’s poignant Guth a’ Phiobaire - the Lone Piper’s lament of both ‘my’ Tattoos. In the end, I chose Unknown Air, by the Scottish fiddler Duncan Chisholm.”