Posted on March 30, 2005

Tattoo Caught in the Crossfire of Racism Row

Brian Ferguson, Scotsman, Mar. 29

EDINBURGH’S world-famous Military Tattoo was at the centre of a race row today after a string of offensive comments were posted on its official website.

Anti-racism campaigners have demanded action over the online forum after it emerged Maori and Zulu performers from previous years were described as “Negroes” and “savages.”

The Tattoo fans’ forum features a string of bitter disputes about invitations extended to groups from abroad. Several contributors have accused Tattoo organisers of “dumbing down” the event by including Maori and Zulu groups in recent years, saying they have effectively “invaded” Edinburgh Castle.

There are rumours on the website about a rap group from Harlem being invited to take part in this year’s event, which have sparked demands for a protest against the organisers, warning it is a “disaster in the making”.

One visitor to the website, referring to Zulu performers, said: “I can recall many in the crowd talking amongst themselves as to why this sort of group, with their spears and warpaint, are dancing and chanting their awful gibberish. These people are simply from a land that time forgot.”

A contributor using the title Harold, from Newcastle, said: “The Tattoo is reaching for all sorts of acts that have very limited appeal to an audience which has travelled to Edinburgh to see a traditional Tattoo and not these sort of primitive types.”

Another contributor, who uses the name “Ex-Scots Guard”, states: “The appearance of these kinds of bone-in-the-nose displays in the Tattoo are simply beyond comprehension.”

One woman, Christine, states: “I don’t care if you call me racist. Neither Zulus nor Maoris belong at the Tattoo. Spare us their barefoot dancing and the right din that they shout out on the hallowed esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.”

One visitor, from Australia, hits back: “I hope you are a young person with some chance of growing out of this pitifully pompous, imperialistic racism.”

The Tattoo is seen as one of the jewels in Edinburgh’s tourism crown and last year’s event generated in excess of £23 million for the city’s economy.

A spokeswoman for the Commission For Racial Equality said: “Edinburgh prides itself on being a multicultural and welcoming city, and the Tattoo attracts visitors from all over the world.

“Some of the posts on the Tattoo’s website forum completely contradict this image of the city and could discourage people from attending not only the Tattoo, but also Edinburgh’s other festivals. We expect the organisers of the Tattoo to take immediate action to investigate and remedy the situation and monitor the forum so that it doesn’t contain any offensive material.”

Ticket sales for this year’s Tattoo, which will feature performers from Australia, Russia, Norway and the United States, are more than 18 per cent up on last year.

Brigadier Melville Jameson, the Tattoo’s chief executive and producer, said: “I’ve not seen the website for the past few weeks as I’ve been abroad, but will looking into this as soon as possible.

“We’ve had problems in the past with comments that have been completely ridiculous and some of the debate can go a bit over the top, with people saying very stupid things.”