Ahead of the Tattoo, we caught up with Brigadier David Allfrey, Chief Executive and Producer of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Thanks for your time David, you must be very busy just now! What were you doing before?
I retired from the Army in 2011 specifically to take up the appointment of Producer and Chief Executive of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. My military career was not particularly distinguished but I am proud to have commanded the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and 51st (Scottish) Brigade. I have now delivered 5 Tattoos in Edinburgh (we are now into the 6th!) and 2 abroad: in Melbourne, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand. I feel privileged and lucky to be enjoying a wonderful second career.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I have a fabulous job with so many different facets. I work with a great team: our core staff in Edinburgh, a number of key technical experts and advisors, our cast, a huge number of seasonal staff and numerous international partners. I travel widely to meet and audition acts and to negotiate with Governments – at home and abroad – to help us bring their contingents to Edinburgh. I also get to set the tone of the Show each year, guiding the theme, casting, music, sound, lights, projections and special effects. The roles of Producer, Chief Executive and de facto Artistic Director sit easily together and life is certainly busy and exciting.
What do you think makes the Tattoo such a special event?
The Tattoo is unique. We are running into our 67th season and have sold out for the last 17 years consecutively. This year, including the shows in Australia and New Zealand, we will have sold 460,000 tickets! More than many rock bands. On top of this, we attract a huge worldwide TV audience with a very respectable 5.3 million viewers at peak in the United Kingdom and 100-300 million through BBC Worldwide. At the moment we are pursuing new distribution partnerships to grow our TV audience to over 1 billion by 2020. I think the success of the Tattoo is its appeal across the generations – we often have grandparents, parents and children attending together. We follow an authentic format but innovate every year to keep the Show fresh each year. Of course, we also have a wonderful stage in front of Edinburgh’s great castle. We work hard to showcase the enduring values and standards of our nation and our Armed Forces; I feel this is hugely important to our audience, particularly in a world that seems to changing very rapidly. We all like to feel proud of what we are.
Where’s your favourite place in Edinburgh?
As you would expect… I love the Castle. My Regiment has its headquarters and Museum in the Barrack Block, Sergeant Ewart who captured the eagle at Waterloo lies under a great monolith on the Esplanade, a huge picture of that action is in the Great Hall and our fallen are remembered in the Scottish National War Memorial. It is a special place. And of course, the Tattoo plays to an audience of 8,800 on the Esplanade every weekday and Saturday evening across August. The Castle is the centre of our life and our thinking. The Castle and its surrounds have a wonderful dynamic and many moods: exciting and vibrant during showtime but also peaceful and reflective. After hours, a quiet moment on the battlements is sublime.
What three things would you take to a desert island?
If I were castaway, I would ask for (not necessarily in order!): a machete fashioned from an old car spring. As a young officer, I spent a fair amount of time in various jungles and learned the value of old carbon steel in survival and making life easier. I would like to be accompanied by my wife, Fiona, her wisdom and companionship would keep morale high and ensure good sense was always to the fore. And, for a luxury I would take my painting kit and its associated clobber. I am a hesitant painter and, with time on my hands, I would enjoy the opportunity to improve.
180 RSC members are lucky enough to have snapped up tickets for our supper and Tattoo package – enjoy the evening!