2022 and the Tattoo is back

2022 and the Tattoo is back

Having been cancelled because of Covid for the last two years, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is back with a new show: Voices.

With more than 200,000 spectators attending the Tattoo over its three week run, it is not just one of the biggest live events taking place in Edinburgh in August. Each year, it is one of the biggest live events taking place in all of Scotland. A staggering 13 million people have seen the show live on the Esplanade in front of Edinburgh Castle and 100,000 tune in to watch its annual television broadcast.

At the heart of the Edinburgh Tattoo are the Massed Pipes and Drums. These are ably supported by military and civilian acts from around the world. Acts from some forty different nationalities have taken part over the life of the Tattoo. Combined with the Lone Piper on the Castle ramparts, all the different elements make for a spectacular and perhaps unexpectedly moving show.

Tattoo meaning

Nothing to do with skin decoration, the word ‘Tattoo’ comes from the Dutch phrase ‘doe den tap toe’ meaning ‘turn off the taps’. This was the signal for publicans to stop serving beer and for soldiers to return to their barracks. ‘Doe den tap toe’ became a signal which military drum corps would play around town at closing time.

A performer from Banda Monumental de Mexico. Pic from Tattoo website.

Voices is the first show from the Tattoo’s new Creative Director, Michael Braithwaite. It draws inspiration from ‘people across the globe who, despite physical separation, continue to connect and share their voices creatively through spoken word, song, writing, music and dance – languages common to all’.

Tattoo Creative Director, Michael Braithwaite, says: ‘Through the challenges and separation of the last two years, people of every culture have used their voices to remain connected. These voices can be found in many ways – the piper through music, the dancer with movement, the poet through words and the drummer with a beat.

‘Voices is our desire to make this Tattoo not just a reunion, but a celebration of the connections, cultures and languages that bring us together at the unique setting of Edinburgh Castle.

‘I’m hugely excited to play a part in the history and spectacle of the Tattoo, helping it return to the global stage, re-energised and invigorated for a new era.’

New talent and old favourites

In addition to the legendary sound of the Massed Pipes and Drums, audiences can look forward to Tattoo pipers and drummers; musicians from UK Military Regiments; Tattoo dancers, Shetland fiddlers and acts from Germany, Canada, the United States, Switzerland, and New Zealand.

As well as debutants such as Banda Monumental de Mexico, there will be old favourites such as the Swiss drumming sensations, The Top Secret Drum Corps. Their dynamic precision drumming first wowed the crowds in 2003. In all,  over 800 performers from across the world will take part in this year’s Tattoo.

The show runs from 5-27 August. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here or on the phone on 0131 225 1188.

Of course, if you would like to experience Edinburgh’s vibrant food and drink scene before the Tattoo then our guides would be delighted to welcome you on an EatWalk tour.

Main pic credit VisitScotland / Kenny Lam.

Tattoo Timeline

This timeline features selected snippets from the Tattoo’s website. The entire timeline is here.


As part of The Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama, Something About a Soldier was performed at the Ross Bandstand in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens. The performance was produced by Lieutenant Colonel George Malcolm of Poltalloch.

The same year, Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm also produced The King’s Men on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade for a standing audience of 2,500.

Following these two productions, the new Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir Andrew Murray extended an invite to the General Officer Commanding the Army in Scotland. Asking him to present a military show to be called the Edinburgh Tattoo. Informally, it was agreed that this would take place annually during the Edinburgh International Festival.


In 1950 the first Edinburgh Tattoo (now The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo) took place. The production included eight items and attracted an audience of 100,000 over its 20 performances.

Lieutenant Colonel George Malcolm was the first Tattoo Producer.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and HRH Princess Margaret attended the final night of this inaugural production.

Fireworks were first used at the 1950 production. From 1950 onwards the tradition of finale fireworks was born.

Pipe Major George Stoddart performed as the first Tattoo Lone Piper. Going on to perform as Lone Piper for the next 11 years until 1961.


In 1951 the audience increased to 160,000 (7,000 per performance).

First televised Tattoo performance was produced and broadcast by the BBC.

The cost of producing the entire 1951 show was just £200.


The Tattoo introduced the first overseas performers. The Pipes and Drums of the 1st Canadian Highland Battalion, La Fanfare à Cheval de La Garde Republicaine de Paris (France) and The Koninklijke Militaire Kapel (Royal Netherlands Grenadiers) all performed.


The first women’s group performed – The Women’s Royal Army Corps Band and the P.T. Display.

In 1953, the Tattoo included displays of Highland dancing for the first time.


HRH the Duke of Edinburgh attended the 1960 show.

During the mid-1960s a number of celebrities visited the show. Among them Douglas Fairbanks Junior, Googie Withers and Canadian actress Yvonne De Carlo.


At the 1962 Tattoo, the finale bandsmen play Chubby Checker’s Let’s Twist Again with mass audience participation on the Esplanade.


The 1965 production included ‘Operation 007: An unusual incident in the life of the Royal Marine Commandos’. A display that included the real world-famous James Bond Aston Martin Car and the Royal Marine Commandos.


The first vocalist was introduced in 1968. Sergeant Muir, a cook from the Scot’s Guards’ Sergeants’ Mess sang If I Ruled the World and Land of Hope and Glory.

In 1968 colour television had burst onto the scene and with it, The Edinburgh Military Tattoo (now The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo).


Hans Majestet Kongens Garde (His Majesty the King’s Guard of Norway) adopted one of the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo – the penguin was named Nils Olav after the Guard’s commander Major Nils Egelien and His Majesty King Olav. In 1972 the penguin held the rank of Lance Corporal; however, each time Hans Majestet Kongens Garde visit Edinburgh the penguin is promoted. Nils Olav now holds the rank of Commander in Chief of the King’s Guard.

In 1975, the old scaffolding stands were replaced with stands built using a new German Construction technique – these new stands were used for the next 36 years.


HRH The Prince of Wales took time off from his duties onboard the minesweeper HMS Bronington – which was docked at Rosyth – for an impromptu, private visit to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.


The 1980 production included a dramatic display where a Piper was lowered on to the Esplanade by an RAF helicopter.


The Tattoo found itself short of performers for the 1982 production due to the Falklands War and enlisted the help of University Pipe Bands.


In its 33rd year, The Tattoo launched its first tartan.


During 1990, audience members spent £19.57 million while in the capital and a further £25 million in the rest of Scotland.

The 1990 Tattoo Souvenir Programme was A5 size and cost £1.

Major Gavin Stoddart, son of the Tattoo’s first Lone Piper, George Stoddart, became Director of The Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming. Major Gavin Stoddart later went on to follow in his father’s footsteps and perform as Tattoo Lone Piper.


Highland Cathedral, one of the world’s most famous pipe pieces, was performed for the first time at the Tattoo.


In 1993, the Tattoo productions evolved to become more theatrical with clear historical themes.

The show started with a blazing Viking longboat.


The 1994 production celebrated the 500th anniversary of the first distilling of whisky with a comic sketch featuring the illicit bootleggers Brewitt and Leggitt.


In 1996 the Tattoo commemorated the bi-centenary death of Robert Burns.


1997 marked the Golden Anniversary of Her Majesty The Queen and HRH Prince Philip.

The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra and Drums made their first appearance at a Tattoo.

Contemporary Highland dancing was introduced.

Brigadier ‘Mel’ Melville Jameson became the Tattoo Producer. With his appointment, Mel Jameson steered the show away from historical themes and moved to a more musical event.


The Tattoo fielded the largest number of pipers and drummers in its history – up to that time.

Footage from the 1998 performance was used in 1999 film The Debt Collector starring Billy Connolly.

The Central Band of the Russian Navy performed at the Tattoo. This was the first time Russian participants had been involved.


The main focus for the 1999 Tattoo was the 200th anniversary of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders – the Thin Red Line of the Battle of Balaklava 1854.

1999 was the first sell-out Tattoo production. Since then, the Tattoo has sold-out every year.

A new tartan – the Jubilee Tartan – designed by Lieutenant Colonel Peter MacDonald– a leading tartan scholar- was created.

Major Gavin Stoddart performed as the Lone Piper. Following in the footsteps of his father, George Stoddart who was the first Tattoo Lone Piper in 1950.


2000 marked a milestone year for the Tattoo as it celebrated its Golden Jubilee.

The Tattoo welcomed the Ngati Rangiwewehi Maori Group.

In 2000, the Tattoo went to New Zealand for the first time with its production ‘Salute to New Zealand’.

To celebrate the 100th birthday of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, a pre-Tattoo Beating of the Retreat was performed with the crowd joining in to sing For she’s a jolly good fellow.

The Tattoo programme was resized from A5 to a glossy A4.


The Tattoo celebrated Her Majesty The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Her Majesty The Queen also attended the 2002 Tattoo.

Colour changing lights were introduced – with the addition of 95 moving head VL-5 lights.


60th Anniversary of D-Day.

The Tattoo began the tradition of having a lead service. The Royal Air Force became the first Tattoo Lead Service in 2004.

Mini stage performances took place at the Ross Bandstand in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens.


The Royal Navy were the 2005 lead service – 2005 also marked 60 years since the end of World War II and 200 years since the Battle of Trafalgar.

Castle projection were introduced for the first time.

The Highland dancers wore the new Highland Spring tartan.


Sean Connery attended the show.


Nils Olaf, the penguin at Edinburgh Zoo was knighted on behalf of Hans Majestet Kongens Garde (His Majesty the King’s Guard of Norway).

2008 marked the Centenary of the Territorial Army. The Territorial Army was originally established in 1908.


The Edinburgh Military Tattoo became The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The Royal title was bestowed by Her Majesty The Queen.

The Tattoo celebrated its Diamond Jubilee.

The Tattoo visited Sydney Football Stadium (known as the Allianz Stadium). The 2010 Sydney show theme was Celebrating 60 years Of Valour, Mateship, Glory.


The new Tattoo stand was erected. The structure included new seats, increasing the venue size by 35%. The total cost of the new stands was £16 million.

2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the One O’ Clock Gun.

At the 2011 show, Edinburgh school children performed as Pictish warriors.


Up until 2012, the Tattoo had only included fireworks for the final performance. In 2012 fireworks featured after each performance.

Dennis the Menace and Minnie the Minx characters performed on BMX bikes

2012 commemorated the 60th anniversary of The Queen’s Coronation.

American actor David Hasselhoff attended the show.


2014 commemorated a centenary since the start of World War I. The Tattoo crowd held candles (LED) in recognition.


In 2016 the Tattoo took the show to Melbourne, Australia and Wellington in New Zealand. The show theme was Fanfare for the Future.


The 2017 Tattoo show theme was A Splash of Tartan. To tie in with the show theme, the audience was invited to dress in clan clothes.


In 2018, the Royal Air Force (RAF) celebrated its 100th birthday. The RAF were also the Tattoo’s 2018 lead service.

The 2018 Tattoo theme was The Sky’s the Limit.


70th Anniversary of NATO.

In October, the Tattoo took the show overseas to Sydney, Australia. The show theme for the Australia production was ‘At All Points of the Compass’.


For the first time in its seven decade history the Tattoo had to cancel as a result of the Covid pandemic.


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