Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo: Global hunt launch for new director to extend event’s global reach
A global hunt is under way for a new figurehead to take the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo into a new era around the world – as it was confirmed that an international events guru brought in from New Zealand to shake up the show will be leaving his role within months.
Organisers have launched a recruitment drive for a replacement for Michael Braithwaite, who has overseen just two runs of the event as its first ever creative director.
Mr Braithwaite’s replacement is expected to have a much wider remit as they will be working on “other events of varying shapes and sizes” as well as the main event in Edinburgh each summer as part of a drive to extend the global reach of the Tattoo.
The new job description for the role states that they will have to “devise and implement a number of different creative models of the Tattoo which, practically and economically, can be delivered to audiences around the world”.
He was also the first non-military figure to design and programme the event, which has been held on Edinburgh Castle’s esplanade since 1950 and attracts an audience of up to 220,000 to a temporary arena each August.
The recruit advert for the expanding role states that “an appreciation of military music and ceremony and Scottish performance cultures are essential to deliver the Tattoo successfully”.
However it also says that the new creative director will be expected to “build on the changes implemented in the shows of the last two years".These have included introducing new special effects to light up the facade of the castle and the esplanade, a new “electropipes” sequence set to dance music, and the use of more pop and rock music, along with themes from films and video games.
Mr Braithwaite, who is understood to be on holiday in New Zealand at the moment, was unavailable for comment.
However the Tattoo, which has paid tribute to his work on the event, said he would be “moving on to new challenges” at the end of his current contract. Mr Braithwaite is expected to stay in his role until the autumn and is overseeing the programme for this summer’s show.
Mr Braitwaite’s track record had included working on the Harry Potter franchise, a spell with Muppets creator Jim Henson’s company, producing an outdoor cultural festival in London during the 2012 Olympics and running live events at Legoland attractions around the world.
Mr Braithwaite’s role was created in a management shake-up at the Tattoo in 2020. He was announced in the role months after Major General Buster Howes was unveiled as chief executive in 2020.
His predecessor, Brigadier David Allfrey, served for 10 years in a joint role as chief executive and producer.
His final show did not get ahead due to the pandemic and plans to revive the event under the new regime in August 2021 were thwarted by uncertainty over what Covid restrictions were going to be in place at the time.
Major General Howes had vowed to shake-up the event when it returned from the pandemic to try to shed its “tartan and shortbread” image and reduce the average age of attendees from 54 by bringing in more contemporary elements and special effects.
A new “creative direction” for the Tattoo has seen the programme shaped around a different theme in each of the last two years, with a new one, “journeys,” due to underpin the 2024 event, which Mr Braithwaite is currently working on.
He had promised to introduce “surprised and innovations” to the event with the aim of “evolving the Tattoo into a modern era”.
Audiences were treated to renditions of hits by Robbie Williams, Tom Jones, Jess Glynne, Lizzo, The White Stripes and Kool and the Gang, while covers of tracks by the Celtic rock and pop bands Runrig, Tide Lines and Skipinnish featured prominently.
Around 97 per cent of tickets for last year’s show were snapped up, with 23 out of 26 performances completely sold out.
However an announcement about the departure of Major General Howes as chief executive just a few weeks later is said to have taken the directors of the Tattoo’s sister festivals by surprise.
The Tattoo has since promoted Jason Barrett, a former United States Marine Corps officer, who was brought in as chief operating officer to work with Major General Howes at the end of 2020, to the chief executive position.
He has pledged to retain its traditional “pillars”, such as the massed pipes and drums, Highland dancing displays and the “loner piper” finale intact, as well as bringing back visiting “fan favourites” from overseas.
The recruitment advert for the new creative director states that candidates should have “enthusiasm for traditional and contemporary Scottish music, performance cultures and other music genres”.
The advert states: “The creative director will be someone with the ability to work and plan across multiple shows - the current year, ahead for the next two years, and international shows in parallel.
"They will have experience and knowledge of how to create a powerful narrative, arcs and stories that audiences will buy into and connect with. They will have a passion for tradition, together with a forward-thinking, creative vision.”
Mr Barrett told The Scotsman: “Michael joined the Tattoo on a three-year contract at the height of the pandemic – a challenging time for all - but with his fresh, creative thinking and wealth of experience, our very first dedicated creative director made his mark. Moving on to new challenges following his now four-year tenure, Michael leaves the Tattoo in a strong position as we look to the future.
“We thank Michael for his efforts in shaping the creative director role, for proving what is possible and for entertaining our crowds over multiple years.
"I know this show in August will end his time with us on a high and start a whole new creative journey for him personally.”
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.