Mini-military tattoo marches into city's annual calendar

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FREE mini-Tattoo performances are set to become an annual fixture in Princes Street Gardens, it was revealed today.

The hour-long performances at the Ross Bandstand were enjoyed by thousands of people when Tattoo organisers piloted the scheme last year.

Two more performances are planned this year and organisers hope to make the free shows a regular feature.

The main event on the Castle Esplanade sold out in record time this year, with every one of the 208,848 tickets snapped up by the end of March.

The specially arranged lunchtime shows in Princes Street Gardens, funded through sponsorship from the Royal Bank of Scotland, are billed as taking the "Tattoo to the people".

The King's Guard from Norway, the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra - which has wowed audiences across the globe - and the Bands & Bugles of the Light Division are all set to make special appearances at the Ross Bandstand on August 17 and 24.

Lord Provost Lesley Hinds said she was "absolutely delighted" to see the mini-Tattoos on this year's line-up.

"They were extremely successful last year," she said. "It gives the opportunity for people who perhaps can't get tickets for the Tattoo, and also for local people, to get a flavour of what it is like."

She added that she thought the choice of venue was inspired.

"With the Ross Bandstand, the audience is able to get a lot closer to the performers than at the Esplanade, so there's something quite intimate about that setting. I already have the date in my diary."

Tattoo producer Brigadier Melville Jameson said he felt sure the events would match up to last year's success.

"We had huge audiences, with thousands of people cramming into the Gardens to watch the free shows," he said. "There were a lot of families with children there - you could see lots of prams. It was a lovely atmosphere."

Brigadier Jameson admitted to having had initial doubts about the suitability of the Princes Street Gardens site.

"I had thought the Ross Bandstand would be a big turn-off but it has proved to be an excellent way of taking the Tattoo to the people without paying," he said. "This is why we got into the Princes Street Gardens idea."

Full details of the programme for this year's Tattoo, which runs from August 5 to 27, will be announced tomorrow.

Brigadier Jameson said an especially poignant highlight would be the sight of the massed pipes and drums of the six Scottish regiments marching together before their are merged.

"It will be the first and last time that the Pipes and Drums of The Royal Scots, The Black Watch, The King's Own Scottish Borderers, The Highlanders, The Royal Highland Fusiliers and The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders march shoulder-to-shoulder across The Castle esplanade," said Brigadier Jameson.

This year's Tattoo is set to be centred around a special celebration of the Royal Navy, and will primarily commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

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