The Tattoo reveals an array of international acts to celebrate this year’s Splash of Tartan

July 31 2017

Scotland’s August extravaganza returns with a stellar line up of the world’s best military performers

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is set to celebrate in its usual technicolour style, unveiling a stellar line up of acts set to descend on Scotland’s capital for the 2017 Show today (Monday, 31 July).

Returning for a 68th season to the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, the world-famous Tattoo will welcome a cast of more than 1,200 performers from all points of the compass: over 250 pipers and drummers, five United Kingdom military bands drawn from across the three Services, a first-time performance from Japan and plenty of other surprises along the way.

The Tattoo will be celebrating Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology in hosting over 3,000 clansmen and women from 57 clans across the 25 performances.  Each contingent (two or three each evening) will march down from the Great Hall of the Castle behind their own pipers and standards to parade, and greet the Salute Taker before the start of each show. The programme will pay rich tribute to the UK’s maritime heritage and the Royal Navy in this special year, with HMS Queen Elizabeth now on sea trials and HMS Prince of Wales in build.  Major contingents from France, India and the United States will complete the glittering line-up.    

A number of the UK’s most distinguished military bands will participate, including what many would argue are ‘one of the finest military bands in the world’: The Massed Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines.  The Queen’s Colour Squadron and the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment will celebrate 75 years of the RAF Regiment and their close working relationship with the Royal Navy.  The Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland will bring their own wonderful style and music to a re-enactment of an ‘Ambush in the Glen’ - a light take on a dramatic moment during the Jacobite Risings.    

The Tattoo’s theme Splash of Tartan is designed to reach out to the Scottish Diaspora and everyone with a Scottish connection or a passion for Scotland.  Everyone is encouraged to Splash their Tartan by dressing in their own or chosen tartan across the month of August: ‘troossers’, kilts, hairy socks, plaids, shawls, sporrans, and bonnets.


Key highlights from the 2017 showcase include: 

  • First-time Tattoo performers, the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force Central Band will take to the stage for an incredible performance from the country’s leading defence ensemble. They will be accompanied by a stunning rendition from a wonderful soloist dressed for the part.  
  • The Indian Naval Band will team up with colourful Teamwork Arts Dancers and the Tattoo Dance Company, to celebrate India’s coastal communities and the 70th Anniversary of the Independence of India.
  • For one night only (Friday, 4 August) the Orchestre des Carabiniers du Prince au Monaco will accompany guests from the Principality to give the audience a touch of Mediterranean sunshine and glamour against a backdrop of yachts and casinos on the Castle façade.
  • The Castle Esplanade will be transformed into a highland glen with illustrations from Scottish artist ‘Stref’ – best known for his cartoons in The Dandy, The Beano, The Broons and Oor Wullie – while The Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland  tell a tale of the Jacobites. 
  • Complete with Breton influence, The Fanfare Band of the 9th French Marine Infantry Brigade travel all the way from Poitiers to deliver their tribute to our ‘Auld Alliance’; complete with components which have been rehearsed in front of The President of the United States of America.  
  • The United States Naval Forces Europe Band are joining in from Naples to celebrate the years of sail and adding their own special colour to the Show.  
  • Shetland Fiddlers ‘Hjaltibonhoga’ have brought a longship ‘The Mirrie Dancer’ from Shetland with them, along with a Viking Jarl Squad for protection, to celebrate the invasions and settlement of their islands.
  • As ever, the headline act - the Massed Pipes and Drums - will create an unmatched atmosphere and sound, with more than 250 pipers and drummers playing in perfect pitch: the most iconic sight and sound of the Tattoo.
  • 50 exceptional Highland Dancers from the Tattoo Dance Company, drawn from talent across the world, will perform to a colourful score written especially for Splash of Tartan by Scottish composer Finlay MacDonald.

Brigadier David Allfrey, Chief Executive and Producer of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo said: "Yet again, the Castle Esplanade is set to come alive with colour, music and history as we bring together an extraordinary group of military and folkloric performers to help us ‘Splash the Tartan’.  Each performer, working as an individual, and as part of a mighty team, is supported by world class musical arrangements, leading edge production techniques, digital sound, massive lighting, three million pixels of projection power, stunning fireworks and special effects and… a wonderful sense of common purpose.

“The finished article is not just hugely entertaining, it is also inspiring.  Each year, we reach out across the world to find the very best acts and bring them to Edinburgh. We are always looking to bring people together to celebrate the rich differences of our global community.  There is something for everyone in this Show and an opportunity for all of us to be proud.”

The Brigadier continued: “Above all, we return easily to our tried and tested strapline: our guests arrive as strangers and leave as friends.  This is what we are about.  As well as providing a unique stage for the best in class, we offer a fantastic Scottish showcase for a whole month.  We are so looking forward to welcoming everyone and sharing our Show.  As always, I hope this year will be sensational!”

This year, the Tattoo will launch its first app to unlock the show from start to finish. The interactive companion to the 2017 show will provide visitors with a set of digital features that will enhance the experience:  sneak peeks of the Splash of Tartan programme and exclusive features that will bring the Tattoo experience to life.

Commenting on the new feature, Brigadier David Allfrey said: 'Whilst we always work to remain true to history and heritage - to remain authentic - we are constantly looking to innovate and evolve.  As part of this, we are exploring leading edge technologies and expertise to help deliver the very best experience for our live and digital audiences.  We are launching an app this year - the first in three stages of development - to cater for the wishes of an increasingly technically aware and demanding audience.  We do not wish to draw folk away from the fabulous spectacle of the Show but we want to present a range of information and services that might make the whole experience even more fun and memorable.  This first version will help us to better understand what our audience desires.  It will allow us to shape what we develop for future shows.”

Sir Malcolm MacGregor, Convener of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, said: “The invitation to participate in The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a wonderful opportunity for the Scottish Clans and Families.  It has generated great interest and excitement throughout the clan network in Scotland and abroad.  57 clans and 3,000 clans folk are taking part across the 25 performances.”

“This is of great historic significance, as Edinburgh Castle stood firm against Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Highland Army in 1745.  It is the first time that the clans have been formally invited to parade within the Castle ramparts.”

“Millions of people all over the world are of Scottish descent and are taking even more interest in their ancestry and heritage.  Showcasing the clans in all their finery at the Tattoo, will bring added colour and spectacle to such a world class event.  Many clans have organised gatherings and events in their traditional lands, in conjunction with their performance at The Tattoo. The whole enterprise has enabled the clans to be active participants in Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.”

Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: “The Royal Navy is thrilled to be taking centre stage at this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Last month, the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth began her sea trials in the Firth of Forth, and this month steel was cut on the River Clyde for HMS Glasgow, the first of a new generation of fighting ships. This is a new chapter for Scottish industry and for the Royal Navy, and we are delighted to share our excitement with friends from around the world.”

“Every day, Scottish-based sailors, submariners and Royal Marines are working at home and around the world to protect and promote the United Kingdom’s place in the world. They are some of the finest ambassadors our country could wish for and a wonderful programme of maritime pageantry and spectacle is in store.”

The Tattoo takes place between 4-26 August on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. More than 1,200 cast and crew are involved in the organisation of the event which plays out to an audience of 8,800 each evening and to an estimated global audience of over 100M through programmed televised broadcasts.  2017 is expected to be the Tattoo’s 19th consecutive sell-out year.