Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo

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Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo
Abbreviation RNSIT
Formation 1979
Type Organizations based in Canada with royal patronage
Legal status active
Purpose advocate and public voice, educator and network
Headquarters Halifax Nova Scotia Canada
Region served
Halifax Nova Scotia Canada
Official language
English, French
HM the Queen

The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo is a show inspired by Military Tattoos given by military bands and display teams. It has taken place annually in Nova Scotia's capital, Halifax since 1979. It is currently held in the Halifax Scotiabank Centre.


The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo is unique from any other Tattoo in the world in that it is more theatrical in nature with a mixture of both military and civilian performers.

It takes place in Halifax Metro Centre in the hockey arena—creating the show in a traditional theatre in the round. The show is heavily costumed and intensively rehearsed with technical staff, choreographers, assistant directors, wardrobe staff and designers as part of the production team—setting it apart from Tattoos in the traditional sense.

A recurring theme of Bond of Friendship is woven into the Nova Scotia Tattoo each year, designed to build international relationships. Additional themes are added each year, usually connected with military anniversaries.

The show has been seen by well over 2,000,000 spectators and hosted tens of thousands of performers from 21 countries. It generates tens of millions in economic impact annually for the Province of Nova Scotia and the Halifax Regional Municipality.[citation needed]

The Tattoo is presented annually by the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo Society supported by subsidies and in-kind support from the Government of Canada, the Province of Nova Scotia, the Canadian Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Corporate Community.

Run mainly by volunteers, the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo is a registered charity of Canada.


The word Tattoo is derived from Dutch doe den tap toe (translated to turn off the taps). In 17th century Dutch villages when British soldiers were required back at their barracks, a drummer would march through the streets playing the drumbeat doe den tap toe.[1]

While the first Nova Scotia Tattoo actually took place in 1979, the event that had the greatest impact on the Nova Scotia Tattoo was the Canadian Armed Forces Tattoo. As part of the Centennial Celebrations, the 1967 Canadian Armed Forces Tattoo was the largest touring show ever presented in the world.[2] During the summer of 1967, the Canadian Armed Forces Tattoo made stops in Victoria, Vancouver, Hamilton, Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal – it toured for a total of eight months.

An officer with the Black Watch, Ian Fraser, had experience working on Tattoos because of the Soldiers of the Queen production that was put together in Gagetown, NB, in 1959. Fraser was called from the Staff College in India to Ottawa to produce the Canadian Armed Forces Tattoo.

From that successful show, Fraser was once again called upon in 1979 to organize a Tattoo to mark the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother to Nova Scotia for the International Gathering of the Clans. This was the first time the International Gathering of the Clans had taken place outside Scotland. Fraser was commanded to organize the show in six months.[3]

After the 1979 debut, the provincial government established the Nova Scotia Tattoo as a permanent tourist attraction. This show evolved into a cultural fixture and economically important nine-day production; a mainstay in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

In recognition of how much the show had evolved since 1979 on an international level, the name formally changed to The Nova Scotia International Tattoo in 1988.

On May 4, 2006, it was announced that the Tattoo had received the designation "Royal" from Queen Elizabeth II. The announcement was made at Government House in Nova Scotia by Lieutenant-Governor Myra Freeman.[4]


Tattoo organizers ignited a controversy in 2010 when Queen Elizabeth II canceled a special Royal Tour appearance at the Tattoo because the event organizers, citing safety reasons, refused to allow her to climb up a set of steps on the Tattoo stage. The steps were theatrical stairs and very steep with no railing.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Falconer, Simon (2010). Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-86492-620-3. 
  2. ^ Cann, Linda (Spring 1992). "Maestro of the Tattoo". Acadia University Alumni Bulletin. 76 (3): 32. 
  3. ^ Falconer, Simon (2010). Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-86492-620-3. 
  4. ^ Nova Scotia News -
  5. ^ "Stairs flap keeps Queen from N.S. tattoo", Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News, March 30, 2010

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