The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle

Total Solutions Group were contacted by Ewan Elder of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo to come up with a solution to designing a covered stage system at Edinburgh Castle. The twist being that the stage had to live in the bottom of the Castle’s dry moat by day and rise above the parapet wall by night. This needed to be repeated every day for the duration of the Tattoo.

The canopy structure needed to be able to carry the local school choir with a small orchestra for the entire performance during the show. The mere fact that the stage was situated in a moat, 5mts from the ground and could only be accessed from the Esplanade on the other side of the moat wall threw up some interesting design challenges. In addition, there was a specific requirement from Historic Environment Scotland regarding any physical or visual impact on the Castle, especially in the daytime when it’s open to the public. The requirement that the system had to retract into the bottom of the moat so it was out of sight in the day time added another layer to the design. To this end the stage had to be lifted by a hydraulic system so TSG contacted Steel Monkey Engineering to design and manufacture the steel base structure and lifts.

The Canopy structure was based around a Maxibeam / GS Truss hybrid for supporting the floor frames with GS Truss uprights and the same truss being used for the sloping roof. The roof has deliberately long eaves to help with protection from the weather. The canopy had to have as little visual impact on the castle as possible, so to this end the metal work was painted a colour to blend with the stone work and the side covers were made of a clear material. This also applied to all the handrail infills so that as much of the castle could be seen through the structure.

A removable bridge was designed so that the main access onto the platform could be made from the esplanade area. The bridge is removed to let the system lower into the moat after the performance. The Steel sub-frame was designed to create a level datum to which the 3 x scissor lifts were fixed. The lifts are synchronised via a manifold to deliver an equal pressure across all lifts. Once at height the system is locked off and X wires deployed to maintain stability.

The build had to be carefully planned, due to have not access from 8am to 6pm to the Esplanade, which is the only access for unloading and loading. This meant that the system was built over two evenings with all the various sections being pre-built and lowered into the moat via crane. To this end all went according to plan, even the weather did not prove too harsh, but maybe the bagpipes outside the hotel where a little bit more of an issue!

Brigadier David Allfrey, Chief Executive and Producer of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo said: “The development and procurement of a bespoke Moat Stage for Edinburgh Castle has been an aspiration for many years and certainly since the successful investment in our new £16 million Stands Complex in 2011. The Castle offers a matchless backdrop for the Tattoo, and other cultural and entertainment events, and it was felt this might be further developed with a stage – of variable scale – in the Moat: a substantial and previously unused space between the Castle walls and the Esplanade. This concept, if delivered, was felt would deliver a broad range of benefit and potential to this already world class venue.”

“The Total Solutions Group were selected as our lead partner in this project and have worked energetically and innovatively to deliver the solution to cost, time and quality. TSG embraced the challenges, remaining flexible and easy throughout. The result is a splendidly ‘fit for purpose’ enhancement to the Castle and a game changer for the Tattoo. This year, with the new stage, we were able to overcome longstanding sound and production challenges, successfully delivering our 68th -and 19th sell out – season.”

“We are hugely grateful for the care and professionalism of Total Solutions Group in satisfying a demanding growth project.”