A photo tour around the world at The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

By Dan James, Festivals Edinburgh Blogger in Residence, August 2018

Dan headshot 300x300The first time I went to watch The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2016 I wasn't sure what to expect, or indeed if I would enjoy it. Within minutes of the show beginning though I was captivated by the perfectly timed performance and impressive music that rang through the evening. Tartan, bagpipes and Edinburgh Castle: you can't get much more Scottish than that, right?


Plus: Watch Dan's Tattoo video here

But one of the most magical things about the Tattoo is it brings together and unites performers from around the world and celebrates the international community in the same way each of the other four festivals in August does. It seemed like the night flew by as the final fireworks set the sky alight and the more than 1000 person cast left the esplanade down the Royal Mile.

The theme of this year's Tattoo is 'The Sky's the Limit' which celebrates Scotland's Year of Young People and the 100th anniversary of the RAF and the energy from each performer kept that theme alive. Here are a few of my favourite photos from the global group that made up this year's spectacle and a little bit of background on the people who make the Tattoo such an unforgettable event.


Behind The Scenes

This year I was super lucky to visit inside Edinburgh Castle before the show commencing. In the hours leading up to each performance, many of the musicians get together for a final practice, and it was exhilarating to see those who had come from all corners of the world just before they entered the esplanade to wow the crowds who had also travelled from near and far.


Malawi: The Edinburgh Girls' High School

As this year's Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo celebrated Scotland's Year of Young People, the welcome was performed by 20 girls from The Edinburgh Girls' High School in Malawi who also joined in throughout other performances during the show. The school in rural Malawi was set up by The Chesney Trust and is now attended by over 160 students. While students from the local twinned school, Mary Erskine, have visited the Malawi school before this was the first year the visit was reciprocated and it was a beautiful start to the evening's performance.


UK and Australia: The Massed Pipes and Drums

The opening of the Tattoo is always an impressive affair of pipes, tartan and guests from other countries. This year was no different, and I could feel the energy from 13 different bands and groups who whipped the energy of the audience alive and set the stage for the next hour and a half of impressive performances. 


Czech Republic: Central Armed Forces Band and Ondráš Art Ensemble  

With various centenaries being celebrated at this years Edinburgh Festivals, 2019 also marks the 100-year celebration of an Independent Czechoslovakia, and although the two countries split in 1993, it's still an important milestone that has been celebrated and marked with events in the Czech Republic. The addition of the Ondráš military art ensemble with their folklore inspired dancing alongside the band was a real spectacle to watch. 


Mexico: Banda Monumental de Mexico 

Bringing together over 100 performers from various bands, the Banda Monumental de Mexico was formed especially to perform at the Tattoo and wow, did they perform! With incredible costumes, infectious beats and a colourful performance it was amazing to witness Mariachi music taking over the Esplanade. 

Tattoo USA

USA: The Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes & Drums and Fellswater

Combining contemporary and folk music from both sides of the pond, the Boston-born MCV lit up the castle with their flag-based projections and catchy drum based performance. I was especially impressed to learn that the participants have day-jobs and yet still find time to rehearse their art weekly. 


Worldwide: Tattoo Dance Company

The Tattoo Dance Company bring together dancers from around the world and judging by the incredible talent on the stage getting into this group is no easy task. With multiple world-champion finalists on the stage, the performance was a slick affair and the addition of bubbles blowing across the esplanade really added to the magic of these moving feet!


USA: The United States Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team 

While the numbers and projections were more intimate for this performance, the attention to detail still made for a captivating display of the most excellent choreography. The discipline required to pull off such a fine show of mate-ship and control while weapons fly between them in front of a packed audience was impressive. 


Oman: The Combined Bands of the Royal Cavalry of the Sultanate of Oman

Having fallen in love with Oman during a recent visit, I was really excited to see the Royal Cavalry of the Sultanate of Oman on the programme this year. Bringing together the Mounted Pipers, the all-female marching band and one of the nations most loved animals, horses, the performance was a real spectacle, and the projections of the intricate traditional architectural details really transported you to their homeland. 


Switzerland: The Top Secret Drum Corps

If you blink you might miss the magic of Switzerland's young drummers who seem to play their drums effortlessly, their neighbour's drums, perform for a packed house and then threw in some fire for good measure. I was fixated on the speed, and intricate detail of the performance as the drummers and drumsticks hypnotised me, and I'm sure all the audience with their precision and passion. 


The Finalé 

Bringing together over 800 performers from across the country followed by the whole cast of the evening, The Finalé of the Tattoo gave me the same goosebumps as it did the first time I got to see the show in 2016. With the history of Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop, fireworks illuminating the sky and performers from around the world it's no surprise the show is nearly always sold-out and one of the hot tickets to book in advance for your Edinburgh Festivals visit. 


Visiting in 2018? There are still a limited number of tickets available for this year's performance and tickets for next year's performances, from 2-24 August 2019, will go on sale from the 3rd December 2018.

Trust me, a night at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo should be a part of your festivals visit, it's blown me away twice now, and I can't wait to see the creativity and new performers who will join the show on my next visit!

Check out Dan's Edinburgh Adventures during August 2018, and follow along using #DansFestivalCity on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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