Article: 2013 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Discussion in 'Films, Music and All Things Artsy' started by walrusboy, Aug 19, 2013.

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  1. I was unsure where to put this review, although I'm sure I shall receive a number of creative suggestions. Anyway, here goes.

    As a veteran paying guest of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo I have seen the event decline over at least 15 years and I think the time is now right to provide a review of the 2013 show.

    I attended this year’s show and found that instead of being themed around one of the British Armed Forces, it celebrated the World and our relationship with it. The traditional format of UK military personnel performing for the crowds made way for a sequence of foreign novelty acts, which although likely to be entertaining at a Spanish all-inclusive holiday resort were not well suited for the rigours of the UK’s premier military tattoo.

    Now, don’t think for a minute that UK military personnel were absent from the tattoo. There were the usual military musicians from a variety of UK and some overseas pipe bands. There were also three military bands, one of them from the RLC. All good stuff (and they were, by the way), you may think, but apart from the Tattoo Support Company from the Black Watch, that was it. Where was the Infantry demonstration of previous years where the oblivious enemy sentry was silenced at the point of a bayonet? And then all the flash-bang pyro to impress the audience. Where was the precision rifle drill of the Queens Colour Squadron? The motor-cycle display teams of the White Helmets or Flying Gunners? Where was the Royal Marine death slide from the castle ramparts? Or the Navy field gun competition? Or the military working dog demonstration with an unfortunate volunteer being dragged around the esplanade to the cheers of a baying crowd. Although these units and events have all performed at the tattoo in past years, this year apart from musicians, the UK Armed Forces were entirely absent from the tattoo.

    So what do you get for your 50 quid entrance fee? Well this year you get a school choir and a children’s motor-cycle display team. You also get Korean dancers and a Mexican musical ensemble who sound like the Patagonians. The New Zealand Army band offered some vague military respite at the 51 minute point when they blasted out a 15 second burst of “Colonel Bogey”. Other than the pipe bands at the beginning, these few notes of “The Colonel” represented the first military related occurrence in the show. Unfortunately a short time later they turned into a skiffle band and four musicians downed their instruments to dance the “Gangnam” as their colleagues played on. To be fair one of the dancers was built in the mould of the Walrus and he should be commended for his nimble agility, despite his ample girth.

    The New Zealand Army band then provided the musical support for a New Zealand female precision marching troupe. The troupe performed a number of complex drill movements including a slower and less impressive version of the White Helmets crossover ride. The Orchestra of the Mongolian Armed Forces followed and demonstrated their much acclaimed “throat singing” (Hmmm). It was a unique experience but apart from the elaborate Gengis Khan uniforms it wasn’t a particularly memorable military experience. The massed bands rounded off the show and it was during this finale that I had to explain to an adjacent American tourist that the Band and Buglers of The Rifles were not part of our “gay” Regiment, and that the increased pace quick march was based on tradition and not sexuality.

    So, overall I would describe this year’s tattoo as the poorest I have witnessed, and I have seen many. It is clear that either UK PLC cannot muster a few decent “gigs” of our own to impress the tourists, or the tattoo is not prepared to pay for them to perform. They are still prepared to take your entrance fee, though. Instead the tattoo relies on a series of novelty foreign acts which in the past would have been used only as “padding”, as the next UK act prepared to move into position. This year, these novelty "turns" took centre stage.

    So, now we reach the Walrus’ overall assessment. Frankly, it was rubbish and not worth the price of the entrance fee. If serving military personnel are paid to put this shambles together then they should hang their heads in shame. This year many people left the event early to beat the rush; unheard of five years ago. So if you’re thinking of catching the tattoo in its last few days, think again. Take your 50 quid to my local, The Guild Ford Arms in Back Register Street and tell them the Walrus sent you. You won’t be sorry.
    WB
     
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  2. Auld-Yin

    Auld-Yin LE Reviewer Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    Walrusboy, totally agree with your assessment and I have only seen the programme not the actual show. I feel that now is the time to drop "Military" from the title. I think that it has been going downhill for years and while I realise that the armed services are much smaller, this is just taking the piss.
     
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  3. I think the deterioration in the quality of the tattoo has been the "elephant in the room" for years. Those who don't attend the event genuinely believe that the tattoo is a celebration of our Armed Forces and those who do attend are surprised to find them almost entirely absent. An hour into this year's event I heard an American tourist ask other members of his party, when they were going to bring some British soldiers on. I also heard a child ask her parents if they were saving the British soldiers until the end of the show.

    Surely we can put together at least a couple of demonstrations. Even if we use some Reservists to put on a show. In a past tattoo I saw an impressive re-enactment of a "behind the lines operation" by a TA SAS unit. It was very well received by the audience and it gave you some pride that there is more to our Armed Forces than just music.

    Even if there is an entire reliance on overseas performers, the tattoo producer should be sourcing genuine military units with impressive acts such as the US Army rifle drill team. It's much more exciting for the audience when there is a chance of serious injury by a chromed bayonet on the end of a twirling rifle. There would also be less likelihood of feeling that you had been "ripped off" for the price of a ticket.
     
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  4. It's all part of Wee Eck's plan to show Scotland's true place in the context of World culture.
     
  5. Auld-Yin

    Auld-Yin LE Reviewer Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    I don't think Wee Eck can take the blame for this one. It is firmly in the hands of senior retired officers who are not usually known for their Independence support.

    Seriou as ly, they should be ashamed to call this a military tattoo, it is just a variety show with some Scottish tunes and some highland dancing.
     
  6. I thought it was pretty good (I was there this year), pretty entertaining, the British component was the best I thought
     
  7. Auld-Yin

    Auld-Yin LE Reviewer Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    And what did the British component do?
     
  8. Are you sure? It was the Signals the night I was there, the others were Irish Guards and Rifles
    The bands, I thought they were better than the foreign ones
     
  9. I wonder if Pepper Sea Dog saw the same show as me. Or whether I walked into a fringe gig of international medicrity. There was no UK military component, other than the musicians mentioned earlier.

    Auld-Yin's description of a variety show is a fair one.
     
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  10. I agree with the variety show verdict, and I was talking about the musicians
     
  11. Couldn't agree more, after years of the missus bursting my heid to take her and, even after enduring the ridiculous situation that you can't buy the tickets over the counter from the 'tattoo office' on the day sales open, I took her there this year.

    Imagine my disappointment when instead of seeing a reenactment of terry getting smashed or something of that ilk I had to endure a bunch of South Americans who would have been better placed in the local Chiquitos (or however you spell it) dishing out tacos.

    Even though the missus enjoyed it she questioned what was military about it.

    To sum it up, with the exception of the pipes drums etc it was utter, utter pish.


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  12. The tattoo had been steadily in decline ever since Brig Jameson made the company more profit driven. His successor Louden was no better, both generally being pricks of the highest order. It's always important to note that there's nothing remotely military about the tattoo, it's an event run by a profit-driven company (turns over ~£7m per year) which utilises the armed forces as a crowd draw and cheap labour.

    They do employ some tasty lassies though...
     
  13. A work colleague is a former member of the Skates' field gun team and greatly regrets their demise; I concur. Nice little gem about LI pace!
     
  14. Sorry, but it's definitely Irish Guards, Rifles and RLC. I should know, I'm stood next to one of the RLC players every night!

    Thanks!



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  15. Grumblegrunt

    Grumblegrunt LE Book Reviewer

    do we have anyone to send nowadays?

    I guess as they are doing their best to reduce the uk defense forces to a token smudge on the balance sheet our leaders want as little as possible to give us any pride in them.