With more events than ever this year, the Tattoo goes from strength to strength. We join Major General Euan Loudon for a look at what’s in store for its sixtieth season.
Between the show on the Castle Esplanade and the Taste of the Tattoo events, around a quarter of a million people are expected to watch this year’s bash with a further four to six million tuning in to the BBC broadcasts.
As ever, the Tattoo features a cosmopolitan selection of acts from around the world, but one of this year’s main themes is as Scottish as whisky and bagpipes: Robert Burns. It’s the 250th anniversary of Scotland’s national bard and the Tattoo is paying its own tribute to the occasion.
“We are going to try and bring Tam O’Shanter to life,” explains Major General Euan Loudon, Chief Executive and Producer of the Tattoo. “We are going to have a hundred dancers who start as tombstones in old Alloway Kirk and then come to life. There will be Meg, Tam’s horse, with the Devil and Nanny in hot pursuit. As is traditional, Meg will lose her tail but in a humane way!”
As well as Burns’ tale of whisky-fuelled mayhem, highlights include the world-famous Massed Pipes and Drums, the Massed Bands of The Royal Air Force, along with highland dancing, the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Tongan musicians, the traditional haunting notes of the Lone Piper and, in their first Tattoo appearance, the Central Band of the Swiss Army.
Finding fresh acts for the Tattoo is no easy task. One trip this year saw MG Loudon visit sixteen cities in nine countries in twenty-four days. He jokes that it all takes its toll on his poor, battered suitcase, but the jetlag is all worthwhile when his travels uncover exciting new groups of performers.
“We’re bringing over a Chinese She Huo cultural group, and I guarantee that very few of the quarter million people who come to this show will have seen anything like this before. There are around a hundred performers who use music and movement to recreate a Chinese folk festival that is unique to the Shaanxi province. The men come out playing trumpets; there are people on stilts that look like horses; generals in boats commanding battles; spectacular drummers and pretty girls with decorative flower poles. I think they’re fantastic.”
Edinburgh Tattoo, 7-29 August.
www.edinburgh-tattoo.co.uk/tickets . Telephone orders 0131 225 1188. Counter bookings from the Tattoo Tickets Sales Office, 32-34 Market Street, Edinburgh.
This year’s top guns
Calgary Burns Club Singers
Making their first appearance at the Tattoo are the Burns Club Singers from Calgary, Alberta in Canada. Alex Cathcart, a Canadian-Scot who was born in Paisley, Scotland, explains what their performances will mean to the group.
“The Calgary Burns club was founded in 1976 by people who were interested in Burns, but we celebrate all things Scottish. From its name onwards, Calgary has a long association with Scotland. A lot of the city’s satellite towns have Scottish names. One of our members came from Airdrie, Scotland and now lives in Airdrie, Canada. He travelled three thousand miles to live in the same place.
“The singing group was set up in 1996. We usually have about half a dozen of us singing at the club’s monthly meetings but there are 31 of us coming out to Edinburgh and 25 of that number were born in Scotland.
“Our Scottish heritage is important to us. There are lots of different people from different backgrounds here in Calgary. We are not in competition with them but we want to make sure that people know that we are here too. We try to promote Scottish culture within the community that we live in.
“This is a special year for Burns and our group is ecstatic to be part of the Tattoo. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something like this.”
Top Secret Drum Corps
One of the Tattoo’s sure-fire showstopper acts will be the set from Switzerland’s Top Secret Drum Corps. First appearing at the Edinburgh Tattoo in 2003, their highly theatrical take on precision drumming has subsequently seen them invited to play in cities all over the world.
Although the Top Secret Drum Corps grew out of Basel’s ancient drumming tradition, they have put their own, highly contemporary spin on the art. “We are not the black sheep of Basel’s drummers, but we are a revolutionary drum corps,” explains the Corps director Erik Julliard. “While we respect the traditions of Basel’s drumming customs, and have grown out of them, we don’t play the drums in a traditional way. Our music is full of visual aspects such as stick juggling, sword fighting and playing on the flag poles.”
Taste of the Tattoo
A series of free lunchtime events, these four mini-tattoos will showcase some 500-performers, featuring participants from Canada, Australia, Tonga, Europe and the United Kingdom.
George Square, Glasgow. Tue 11 Aug, 12.30-1.30pm
Linlithgow Palace Peel, Linlithgow. Thu 13 Aug,12.30-1.30pm
Dumfries House, Cumnock. Thu 20 Aug, 12.30-1.30pm
Jedforest Rugby Ground, Riverside Park, Jedburgh. Thu 27 Aug, 12.30-1.30pm