BIRMINGHAM INTERNATIONAL TATTOO 2018: OUR VERDICT
Whatever I was expecting from the Birmingham Military Tattoo, it wasn’t this. For me (and many other people), the first thing that springs to mind when I think of a military tattoo is the backdrop of the Edinburgh Castle but today, that all changed when the Arena Birmingham was transformed into a magical place – a place to reflect on the heroism of our armed forces and a place to be proud to be British. For me, this is an event that everyone should go and see – even if it’s not usually your type of thing.
I’m not one for getting overly emotional but I definitely felt a slight pinch on at least two occasions during this performance. The first was when I saw the look on my 4-year old’s face as he watched, open-mouthed as the show opened. And he wasn’t the only one who gasped in amazement. It was our first show, so we didn’t know what to expect. I’d looked at some video’s on Youtube before buying the tickets – I bought them for my son’s birthday as he’s fanatical about soldiers – but nothing really compares to seeing an event like this in the flesh. It captured everyone’s imagination – from my 20-month-old toddler (who actually sat still for 3 hours!!), to my 4-year-old wannabe future soldier to my husband who is notoriously hard to impress. Oh and me, usually only interested in attending the Arena to watch rock-concerts, I was converted after the first 5 minutes.
The show opened with the tattoo brass band who marched out in full-force with all the pomp and pageantry that you would expect. Immaculately turned out and an impeccably timed performance that was captivating to see.
The first of the overseas performances came from National Armed Forces from the Republic of Poland who delivered an amazing show full of maracas, music and their traditional axe dancers. Regarded as one of the most professional militaries in Europe, it was interesting to hear of the contributions that they had made to WW2, in fact we were told that 16 actually served in the British fleet, fighting alongside British soldiers.
The next surprise came from the convoy of motorbikes who entered the arena to ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’ and then proceeded to coordinate a display that formed the number 100 to commemorate the anniversary of WW1. This section of the show ended with the presentation of a metal wreath to honour the work of animals in combat – a nice follow on from the previous military dog display. As they left the Arena to Queens ‘We Will Rock You’, the commentary fed our imagination with facts about the animals that had been awarded the Dickin Medal in WW2. Who knew that Pigeons had in fact won the most medals out of all of the animals who served?
The second time I was brought to tears was during the performance from the disco dancers who entered the arena in the dark, holding torches to create a magical visual effect. Dressed in nurse’s tunics, the dancers performed routines to songs such as ‘Doctor Jones’ to honour the 100th anniversary of the NHS. Whilst the performance was fantastically up-beat and well-choreographed, it felt like the music-choices were poignant in telling a story about our National Health Service.
The end of the show culminated in an impressive parade of the 1000+ military professionals and dancers whom we had seen throughout the show. The crowd were choked as the band played Land of Hope and Glory and Time to Say Goodbye was delivered powerfully by a singing duet. As the flags were lowered, confetti filled the arena and fireworks and cannons marked the close of a truly impressive performance.
In summary this show has everything you would want and more. Music, dancing, captivating commentary and pyrotechnics – this didn’t just feel like a military display – for me it felt like a reminder of all that is great and British. A magical spectacle for all ages, stages and walks of life. A must see.