Brigadier David Allfrey explains what's behind the Tattoo spectacle
producer of the Tattoo resigned, there was a good, strong field of competent contenders. So I was slightly surprised when they offered me the job. It was a scary 24 hours, talking with my wife, deciding if we were going to leave the Army early to come and do this. But Edinburgh’s a fantastic place to live and work and everyone’s been so nice.
I have three roles: there’s the private sector and the charity sector to balance – we have given about £10 million over the years to charities and give a grant to the Edinburgh International Festival. There’s also an element of engaging with governments both here and around the world.
I’m very new to this - most of the people in my office have been doing the job much longer than I have. I’ve had two years of intense training, coming up to my third show now.
All of us are trying to put on amazing shows when the economics are quite tough, and people are pretty discriminating about when and how they spend their money. The challenge is not just to entertain, but to inspire.
Every night, the audience is 8,800. 220,000 people see the show each year. If you compare that to booking Wembley Arena five nights in a row, there aren’t many who would contemplate it.
My lasting memory is of bringing my own son aged seven, and watching him standing on his chair, dancing and swinging his kilt in the rain.
2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland, so our theme is Our Wonderful World. The two great theorists of evolution, Wallace and Darwin, both have a connection to Scotland. Darwin is connected to Edinburgh University and Wallace himself was Scottish, so there’s a tremendous sense of evolution here.
We’ve got night and day, life and death and the four seasons. Spring will be represented by South Korea, with cherry blossom and wonderful dancers with fans. Of course, the sun rises in the east, so that’s the first place to get spring. We then head to Mexico for summer. There’s going to be a wonderful sound, with all the trumpets and 120 mariachi and dancers. They also celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico, when they lay out gifts and food for their long-dead relations, so we’ve got a little bit of darkness in the middle of the show. After a long vigil in the cemeteries, there is a massive Mexican party before we go to autumn, played by New Zealand. Russia will be winter.
In amongst that, we have our more traditional acts. The Highland dancers will do daybreak and the Lochiel Marching Drill Team will do nightfall. The Lone Piper, drums and everyone will all fit around this.
Everyone thinks we have a wonderful life, working really hard in August then skiving for the remaining 11 months. The reality is that each show takes up to three years to build. But it’s been great, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Unlike normal concert promoters, almost all of our acts are relianton a government supporting them.
Last year we had Patrick Doyle, the composer of Disney’s Brave, and this year we’ve been talking about the score of The Hobbit. We get very emotional about the soundtrack; it’s right at the heart of the show, beyond everything. It’s the music that catches people out.
When & Where
The 2013 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 2 - 24 August, times vary. Price from £26, Tel: 0131 225 1188