Wellington welcomes Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The drummers are poised, the highland dancers in position and the pipers at the ready for the greatest show on Earth as it marches into Wellington, New Zealand.

The drummers are poised, the highland dancers in position and the pipers at the ready: the greatest show on Earth is marching its way into Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city.

In true Antipodean style, New Zealand has welcomed the Scots with a traditional Māori powhiri welcome ritual and haka.

More than 1200 performers are involved in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which is being performed at Westpac Stadium, on the city’s waterfront from 18 – 21 February; just the fifth time it’s ever been performed outside Scotland in more than 65 years.

Tattoo Chief Executive and Producer, Brigadier David Allfrey, says it’s a thrill to bring a show of such an epic scale to New Zealand for the second time.

“New Zealand has a strong relationship with Edinburgh and the Tattoo, having been represented at 34 of the 65 Tattoo events in Edinburgh since 1955. It’s wonderful to be able to return the favour and bring all the pomp and ceremony back to Wellington."

Brigadier Allfrey said he was particularly looking forward to seeing the more than 200 kapa haka performers who are taking part in the Tattoo.  

“Add them to the 300 pipes and drums from around the world and you have a show on a truly spectacular scale. With 85 decibels of pipes, the sound in the Stadium will be absolutely massive.”

A life-sized replica Edinburgh Castle has been constructed in Westpac Stadium providing the backdrop to the show which includes performers from the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Tonga, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.

This year’s show, entitled Fanfare for the Future, is a commemoration of the centenary of the Gallipoli landings by the ANZAC Forces in 1915, Brigadier Allfrey says.

“The show honours the service shown by the Allied Forces in World War I, many of whom gave their lives during the Gallipoli campaign. However the show is also looking to the future with hope and optimism.

New Zealand Festival Chair Kerry Prendergast says she’s delighted the Festival is able to bring the logistical marvel that is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo to Wellington for a second time.

“It’s been called the greatest show on Earth, and I can’t think of a better way to begin the 2016 New Zealand Festival’s 30th anniversary celebrations than by bringing this extraordinary event to New Zealand audiences.” 

About the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was first performed in 1950 as the Army in Scotland’s musical contribution to Edinburgh’s International Festival. Today, it blends music, ceremony, entertainment and theatre, set against the magnificent backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.  

Every year 220,000 people see the Tattoo live in Edinburgh, with approximately 35 per cent of them from overseas. One hundred million people from 40 countries watch it on television. At the heart of the Tattoo is the stirring sight and sound of the massed pipes and drums, drawn from Scottish regiments.

The other key components are the massed military bands, formed from across the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force, and the grand finale in which the entire cast of 1000 or more joins together for that international song of love and friendship, Auld Lang Syne. The Lone Piper, standing high on the castle ramparts, brings the event to a poignant conclusion with a haunting lament.

A few facts

  • The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Wellington is presented by The New Zealand Festival.
  • Over the years, performers from 48 countries, both military and civilian, have been represented at the Tattoo, along with elephants, camels and police dogs.
  • More than 14 million people have attended the Tattoo since it was first performed in 1950. The annual live audience is around 220,000.
  • Approximately 70 per cent of each audience is from outside Scotland.
  • The Tattoo is set up and run for charitable purposes. Over the years, it has gifted some £8 million to service and civilian organisations.
  • The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has toured overseas three times including Wellington in 2000.