Seven Days Away!

Every July, the Scottish and military elements that helped form the province of Nova Scotia blend into the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo, now the world’s largest annual indoor show. Staged by an international cast in the provincial capital, Halifax, the event gives audiences the Celtic entertainment they love, adding dancers and acrobats to create a breathtakingly modern tattoo.

“A night that’s part Cirque du Soleil in its variety and inventiveness, yet pure Gaelic sentiment too, and one of the most moving nights of entertainment I’ve ever experienced,” The Hamilton Spectator’s Linda Jacobs wrote of the extravaganza.

“The Nova Scotia tattoo is the most innovative in the world,” shares Leah Whitehead, the event’s marketing manager. “It’s been a leader in carefully integrating military and civilian performers and creating a balance between the two different cultures.”

Festivities will begin on July 1st, with the firing ofHalifax’s famous noon gun from Citadel Hill. The crack of the gun will begin a week of free workshops and events around the city. This year’s tattoo will be attended by acclaimed Estonian gymnasts Club Piruett and young Nova Scotians will be offered the chance to learn from the visiting virtuosos.

The upcoming show will have three themes: The Titanic, The War of 1812 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Four matinees will make the show more accessible to families. Children will adore the comedic acrobatic troops fromSwitzerlandandGermanyand the fast-paced sequence of scenes.  “We’ve had parents say to us that their child has learned more about Canadian history at the Tattoo than anywhere else,” says Whitehead, “It’s so engaging that they retain what they’re seeing.”

“We’re careful to make it a different show every year,” she adds, explaining that groups are asked to participate every two to three years. “What makes us unique is that we don’t pay our performers, so they are all here because they want to be.”

Tattoo comes from the 17th century phrase doe den tap toe, which represents the beating sound of drummers who marched through Dutch streets signaling to tavern keepers that it was time to turn off the taps to British soldiers. “Tattoos, historically, were competitions between regiments in the military,” Whitehead says.

Halifax’s event began in 1979. That year, the city hosted the International Gathering of the Clans, with HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother in attendance. Ian Fraser, who became the tattoo’s artistic director, was asked to plan a celebration. Today’s tattoo has become an international, family-themed spectacular, but Nova Scotia’s tattoo always emphasizes the province’s Celtic roots, and Nova Scotia is represented by bagpipes, highland dancers, and la culture de l’acadie.

“The Celtic aspect obviously comes out through the pipes and drums and the highland dancers”, says Whitehead. “And we always end with the traditional Scotland the Brave and The Black Bear,” she says with a smile.