Picture-perfect spirit of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Tomorrow is your last chance to see the stunning ‘Exposure’ photography exhibition at Central Library.

The 23 images on display capture the imagination and creativity of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on one magnificent canvas.

Capturing colourful moments from recent Tattoo performances, New York-based, Musselburgh born photographer Martin Scott Powell’s work gets under the surface of the showpiece military event with a selection of rarely-seen images from the Tattoo’s collection.

Photographer Martin Scott Powell at Edinburgh Central Library

Photographer Martin Scott Powell at Edinburgh Central Library

Tattoo Chief Executive and Producer, Brigadier David Allfrey said: “Like all spectacular live entertainment, the Tattoo’s images and music pass in a flash for our live audience.  And, although wonderful memories remain, the BBC broadcast the show and we record the soundtrack, capturing the full magic is always challenging.  Across the last 6 decades some wonderful photographs have been taken, each recording the tone and character of their time.  This latest chapter by Martin Scott Powell is truly remarkable – each image tells its own story.  Fabulous!”

Photographer Martin Scott Powell remarked: “Working with the tattoo over the 7 years has been a truly fantastic experience. Since we started our collaboration it was always most important for me to communicate the sheer visual impact of every aspect of the show. From the character faces and impeccable uniforms of the pipe majors, to the rich colour and overwhelming beauty of the finale sequence. The images exhibited as part of this show, for me, aim to explore the magic, the atmosphere and the emotion that we all feel when visiting the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.”

The presentation has been fashioned by Edinburgh design agency, Nexus24.

Saughton’s glorious summer of 1908

The Scottish National Exhibition in Saughton Park ran for only six months, attracting nearly 3.5 million visitors. It began with a plan to repeat the success of an earlier exhibition at The Meadows in 1886. The Meadows was not available for this latest venture, but the council had just taken ownership of the sprawling Saughton Hall estate and the 42 acre site complete with mansion, offered the ideal location.

Gorgie Entrance

The scale was phenomenal; the mixture of entertainment astonishing. These were the days when spending a fortune on providing local people and visitors with an attraction that offered everything from a varied programme of music and dance to a village housing 70 French-Sengalese natives, and an enormous figure of eight rollercoaster to a replica Irish cottage – all to be torn down just six months later – was simply the done thing.

Things happened incredibly quickly too. By the time Prince Arthur of Connaught, a grandson of Queen Victoria, opened the exhibition on May 1st, a railway station had been built at the junction of the Corstorphine branch line to transport thousands of daily visitors from Waverley Station, and a bridge constructed across the Water of Leith.

Industrial Hall

Visitors were drawn to the Palace of Industries, an impressive Arabian style structure which cost £10,000 to construct and showcased the latest engineering innovations and techniques from around the world. The Machinery Hall, built at a cost of £3,000 and taking up an impressive 3100sq ft, was stuffed with examples of shipping, mining, printing, gas, steam and hydraulics.

Senegal Village and baby incubators

But perhaps the most intriguing of all the exhibitions were the beehive huts occupied by 70 French-Senegal natives, uprooted  and no doubt slightly bewildered, from Africa to make the corner of Saughton Park their home for six months. Every movement of the tribe’s men, women and children was viewed with curiosity by the exhibition visitors as they demonstrated their skills as goldsmiths, weavers, musicians and dancers to a fascinated public.

There was even an addition to the tribe, born in one of the huts and subsequently given the quite non-Senegalese name of Scotia Reekie!

Water chute

In the Amusement Park there were devices galore to loosen the purse strings. The Water Chute was a favourite with visitors of all ages and everyone saved their 2d for this spectacular ride. At the top of a wooden tower, the passengers were seated in a boat with a sailor standing at the back. The operator signalled release and off it went gliding down a long wooden ramp to hit the water with a large splash of water.

The exhibition was so successful, that when the time came to close in October, some visitors were less than happy. The final celebrations were soured as drunken yobs turned nasty, the ornate bandstand became a battleground of youths pitching chairs at each other while police waded in with batons drawn.

It was a bitter ending to what had been a roaring success. Soon the pavilions, funfair rides Sengalese village and restaurants were dismantled. And Saughton Park’s glorious summer was over.

See more amazing pictures of Saughton’s summer of 1908 on Capital Collections.


Seen much of the festival?

Our photographer has been mingling with the tourists and performers on the High Street to capture more fantastic pictures for our Library archive. He also pitched up early and managed to get a ringside seat for the awesome Harmonium Project performance which kicked off the Edinburgh International Festival.

We’ve been at the Church Hill Theatre in Morningside too, documenting the activity of fringe residents, the American High School Theatre Festival. The American High School Theatre Company were wonderful hosts and we were allowed access to their technical rehearsals and a superb swashbucking performance of ‘Zorro – the Musical’ by Chadwick School.

Here’s a couple of our favourite pictures from Zorro which ended with a deserved standing ovation for the cast and crew.

Zorro - the Musical at Church Hill Theatre

Chadwick School perform Zorro – the Musical

Chadwick School perform Zorro - the Musical

Chadwick School perform Zorro – the Musical

The Church Hill Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary as a community theatre venue next month and there’ll be more to come on Capital Collections soon….

Have you seen anything worth talking about? Share your picture memories of festival 2015 on Edinburgh Collected!

How libraries changed the lives of visually impaired people in Edinburgh

Edinburgh City Libraries recently won the annual Jodi Awards for best use of technology to widen access to information, learning, collections and creativity for disabled people in museums, libraries, archives and heritage. These awards are given in memory of Jodi Mattes, a tireless champion of equal access to culture for disabled people.

The award is the culmination of years of work developing our services in this area, and we’re very proud of the impact we’ve had on people’s lives.

Here’s how it happened:

Back in 2013 we took the decision to expand our service for visually impaired users from its city centre location out across the city.

We wanted to make it easier for people to use our services and to offer something innovative which would attract new members to the library service.

Here’s what we did:

We started by consulting with existing and potential members and relevant organisations – both local and national. This gave us some idea of what direction to take, and the pitfalls to avoid.

Then we bought some iPads. We invested in Apple equipment because of the embedded “voiceover” adaptive technology built-in to these devices.

Next, we deployed experienced staff to deliver professional training and we also recruited suitable volunteers.

And the results?

The project resulted in 130 new library members, who are confident using technology, sharing what they’ve learned with others, and continuing their learning independently.

Another offshoot of the project is that through the contact people have made we’ve set up 3 reading groups specifically for people who are blind or partially sighted.

We’re now approaching other local authorities to develop a community of best practice. In addition to organisations such as RNIB, Guide Dog Scotland, Deaf Action and Share the Vision, we’re now developing partnerships with other national and local agencies and the voluntary sector in order to expand the reach of the project.

So what’s next?

The success of this initiative has inspired us to think about how this networking pattern can be used to support people with other sensory impairments. We’re starting to explore ways to remove barriers to library use for people with hearing loss, and we’ve also looking at ‘Boardmaker’ software to support people with autism.

Finally, here’s what some of our members think of the service:

‘I really appreciate the service Jim and his team provide. Since coming along to the group I have managed to take control of my iPad, beforehand it felt like the tablet had a mind of its own.’

‘I can now read a newspaper online, something I have never been able to do before.  As a result of attending the iPad sessions I can keep up-to-date with all the events surrounding my favourite team Celtic.’

‘I never thought I would be able to cope with a touch screen. I couldn’t have been further from the truth, the iPad has enhanced my life in so many ways. I now am able to assist Jim and help out by passing on what I have learnt to new members.’

‘As a recent convert to Apple technology I have found the library service excellent.  Jim always tries new innovative ways to incorporate novices like myself with more experienced iPad users.’

‘I really enjoy coming along to the library iPad groups not only for the technical know-how available there, but the social interaction is a vital ingredient to the success of the project.’

‘I really appreciate both the expertise and patients that Jim and Joanna (our volunteer) have in abundance.  They always have great ideas to keep us all challenged in a fun way.’

‘There is nowhere else in the city where we can get such a tailor-made service for visually impaired people to master this new technology.  Jim has endless patience and never seems to tire when being confronted with our endless and often repetitive questions.’

Exposure! A photographic essence of the Tattoo

Everyone has heard of the Tattoo and if you are lucky enough to be going you will be looking forward to the greatest show on earth.  In anticipation, or if you did not get a ticket, then you can still get a flavour of the Tattoo from the photographic exhibition in Central Library.

The photos by Martin Scott Powell are dramatic, thought-provoking and stunningly beautiful.  They capture the spirit of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo with its fantastic performers to its world-beating backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.

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This year’s theme is ‘East meets West’ showcasing performers from all corners of the globe.

Thirteen million people have seen the Tattoo to date, so that is testament to its enduring appeal.  If you want to have a glimpse of that appeal and experience the ‘wow’ factor of these photos the exhibition is on until 29th August.

There are even free postcards to send home to friends and family to show them what they are missing.

Look what we’ve collected!

Just thought we’d share some highlights from the many memories that have appeared on Edinburgh Collected since its launch in April.

This fabulous shot captures the story of our summer so far –

Edinburgh Rainbow

Edinburgh Rainbow shared by SKerr

‘From There to Here’ have added some simply spectacular photos of children playing on Wester Hailes’ ‘Venchies’, a series of wooden play structures. The pictures date back to sunnier summers of the late 70s and early 80s.

Venchie Fun shared by From There to Here

Venchie Fun shared by From There to Here

We’ve also been collecting memories of the Church Hill Theatre which will shortly be marking its 50th anniversary as a community theatre venue. This wonderful ensemble shot documents the cast of the first ever pantomime at the Church Hill Theatre back in December 1965.

'The Enchanted Waltz' pantomime shared by Church Hill Theatre

‘The Enchanted Waltz’ pantomime shared by Church Hill Theatre

Go back to school with Kathleen Glancy who’s shared her memories of her 1950s schooldays. She remembers how she covered her school books with brown paper, the school nurse’s visits and her prefect duties of bringing in the crates of milk and keeping the classroom coal fire burning!

Kathleen Glancy's class photograph from P1 shared by Dean Village Memories

Kathleen Glancy’s class photograph from P1 shared by Dean Village Memories

And in celebration of Edinburgh’s Living Landscapes, there are some lovely pictures of floral meadows and natural grasslands that have sprung up around the city.

Floral Meadow at Silverknowes Foreshore shared by Edinburgh Living Landscapes

Floral Meadow at Silverknowes Foreshore shared by Edinburgh Living Landscapes

Contribute to the Living Landscape Photography competition and you could win a great prize and see your photo appearing on Edinburgh Collected!

Share your memories on Edinburgh Collected and and help us make history.



Revealing our hidden collections

thomson scrapbookYou may have seen the big splash in Friday’s Evening News about the Thomson family scrapbooks and our successful quest to track down the living relatives of their creators.

The scrapbooks were compiled during World War One by the Thomson family who lived at Glengyle Terrace. Most of the items pasted into the scrapbooks are press cuttings, leaflets, scraps and adverts but there are some personal ephemera, such as letters and a ration book, which give personal details and an indication of the impact of war on the family.

We’ve digitized the scrapbooks so they can be viewed online but you can see the actual scrapbooks for yourself in the first of a series ‘show and tell’ sessions featuring these and other hidden treasures from our collections.

The Thomson family scrapbooks will be on show at the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection in Central Library this Wednesday (12th August) 10.30 – 11.00am.

Other ‘show and tell’ sessions are listed below:

grassmarketDiscovering Thomas Keith’s photographs

Thomas Keith was an amateur photographer whose wonderful photos of Edinburgh and other areas of Scotland were all taken between 1853 and 1856, making them some of the earliest photographs in our collection.

Wednesday 19th August, 11am – 12 noon, Central Library Boardroom


theatre programmesExplore 1950’s Edinburgh theatre programmes

Did you know that Sir Lawrence Olivier played at the Lyceum in 1952? Other big names included Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers, Sam Wanamaker and Joyce Grenfell. Come and have a browse for yourselves and share with us your own memories

Friday 21st August, 2.30 – 3.00pm, Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Central Library


Whaur did yer Granny bide? Exploring the streets of old Edinburgh

Search out the street she lived in and actual historic O.S. Maps of Edinburgh from 70 years go. How did the Street name come about? What did Edinburgh look like then? Come and find out.

Friday 28th August, 2.30 – 3.00pm, Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Central Library


ccEdinburgh’s sinister past: in the footsteps of Burke and Hare

Discover images and documents relating to Edinburgh’s most notorious murderers. Uncover the facts behind this macabre tale. As to the victims:

‘They were all destroyed by the same process, and almost in every case stupefied with liquor’ in The Official Confessions of  William Burke: executed in Edinburgh for murder …published in 1829.

Friday 4th September, 2.30 – 3.00pm, Edinburgh and Scottish Collection, Central Library