Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2011 - Highlights
Brass bands on bikes among highlights of music and marching extravaganza
This article is from 2011.
Have you ever wondered if you are a 'Bad Scot'? If soor plooms, Mel Gibson's take on William Wallace, dodgy recitals of Burns' poems and other things associated with stereotypical Jock culture make you recoil like a moggie from a festering puddle, you are not alone (except for the soor plooms part. No one hates soor plooms). But still, certain national spectacles are undeniably worth a look in. Case in point: the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The massive annual outdoor spectacle put on by the British armed forces and Commonwealth and international military bands and display teams returns to Edinburgh Castle this August, showcasing culture from Scotland and around the globe.
'12.3 million people have seen the show live since it began and 20,000 people turn out for it each year,' says Tattoo chief executive and producer, Brigadier David Allfrey. 'The cast ranges from 800 to 1000 people. It is set against an incredible backdrop – it's a rare and incomparable occasion.'
2011 marks the 61st year of the Tattoo, a show which has been a sell-out for the past decade. 'We get all sorts of acts from all over the world: Australia, Europe, the Americas, Africa. We will have Royal Navy gun teams and the lone piper, as ever, combined with a number of new features,' explains Allfrey.
Mixing in to this year's international flavour are groups like the South African Navy Band (see video below) – multi-talented musicians who use unique instruments made from kudu horn (that's water buffalo to you and me). The Netherlands' celebrated Bicycle Band, or Fanfarekorps Koninklijke Landmacht Bereden Wapens, will also be donning historic World War I uniforms and hopping on pushbikes to add an extra visual element to the show. 'They are quite outstanding,' Allfrey says. 'I don't want to give away too much all at once but let's just say it is clear how talented they are as musicians and cyclists …'
It could also be argued that, in these tense times, it is important for us regular plebs to see servicemen and women in a different light, free from cries about cuts and coalitions. The pipers and drummers who crowds gather for outside the castle are not professional musicians but serve in the armed forces. Many have been on tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and other controversial conflicts.
'The musicians are drawn from the army, navy and airforce of Britain and her allies but the dancers, backstage workers and other people behind the scenes are all civilians,' Allfrey explains. 'It's a good blend because, without everyone coming together, the Tattoo wouldn't be possible, or anywhere near as successful. It's always important for the armed forces to have the consent and support of the population they work for.'
To add an additional string to its 2011 bow, the Tattoo is again offering some traditional dance with an interpretive twist under the watchful eye of Highland dance director, Billy Forsyth. 'There will be approximately 60 dancers this year, focusing on the Royal Marine theme,' explains Forsyth, twice winner of the World Highland Dancing Championship and dance chieftain at the Tattoo for the past 20 years.
'At the time I was approached, there wasn't any Highland dancing in the Tattoo. There is a misconception among some Scots that the Tattoo is something which just gets repeated year after year, churning out the same old things, but there is a lot of scope for trying new things and being creative with a traditional idea,' Forsyth says.
For anyone still unconvinced, there are new, comfier seats to rest one's posterior on this year, so there is really nothing left to complain about.
Do say: 'You bring the blanket; I'll bring the soor plooms.' Don't say: 'Can you turn it down a little?'
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Edinburgh Castle, 0131 225 1188, 5 Aug, 8.30pm, 6–27 Aug, Mon–Fri 9pm, Sat 7.30pm & 10.30pm, no show Sun, £23–£58. See our facts and figures article for more info on the Tatttoo.