Alan: Tattoo Creative Director and British Army Reservist

In honour of Reserves Day our new Creative Director, Alan Lane, discusses his role as a British Army Reservist, what contribution means to him and how he juggles civilian life with his military service.

As part of Armed Forces Week, Reserves Day offers an opportunity to celebrate the service of our Reservists. An integral part of the armed forces community, these individuals volunteer not only their time, but their expertise. From architects to civil servants and artistic directors, they bring a wide variety of skills to their forces role. Helping out at home and abroad, these volunteers work the Regular troops to provide technical and on the ground support.

Contribution is a core value of our organisation, and Alan Lane, our new Creative Director, taking over from 2025, lives this value in abundance. From helping his son’s Scouts, to volunteering in Europe alongside his Reserves troop, Alan strongly believes in supporting his community and nation.

Having planned to join the military in his youth, Alan’s plans were put on hold when he was diagnosed with cancer at just 22 years old. Over a decade later, with a successful theatre career under his belt and a child on the way, he was finally able to realise his dream.

We caught up with him to learn more about being a Reservist and what that means to him.



“Hello, I’m Alan, I’m a dad to 8-year-old David and dog called Bolt. I’m a theatre director by trade that specialises in large outdoor shows with big casts of non-professional performers. Working on things like opening ceremonies, or what we call ‘people’s theatre’. ‘People theatre’ is essentially a performance where people who make theatre for a living collaborate with people who don’t. To me, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is the best people’s theatre show in the world and always has been. It also happens to be the first piece of theatre I saw as a child.

“Having worked in Yorkshire for the last 20 years, I’ve recently moved up to Scotland to take on my new role as Tattoo Creative Director.”



“So, I’m a military child. My father was in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and I grew up in RAF bases, mostly in Berlin, but all over. This gave me a real respect for the forces, having a parent in uniform was really important to me.

“I always meant to join the Regular Army, but I was diagnosed with cancer on my 22nd birthday. Unfortunately, you can’t join the Army with cancer, it’s one of the things they’re pretty strong on! After a couple of years, I was cancer free, however, I learned that you can’t join the Army until you’ve been clear of cancer for 10 years. So, I got on with my life, making theatre in prisons, with young offenders, traveler communities and the parts of society that don’t usually get as many opportunities in the creative arts.

“10 years later, I’m then 35 with a theatre career and I’m finally applicable to join the Army. But by that stage though I felt too old. My wife at the time was pregnant and I was going to be a father, which I was very excited about. Reflecting on my childhood, I realised that having a parent in uniform was very important to me, and it was something I hoped would be important to my child too.

“So, I approached the Reserves and joined the engineers because it was closest to what I was doing in my civilian life. I felt that I could add some value there in terms of managing projects and organizing people.

“I’ve now been a Reservist for almost 10 years. Currently serving as Troop Commander of the 106 Field Squadron of the 75th Royal Engineers based across the North of England.”



“There’s a minimum service of 28 days. This normally means supporting the Reserves a couple of weekends a year, then there’s also a two-week training camp. The training camp ensures you’ve got a basic level of training, should you ever be useful anywhere.

“I’m a Troop Commander in the Royal Engineers, my team build things and do their job and I make sure that they’re safe while doing it. We do a lot of work supporting other units. So, I’ve spent time in Eastern Europe doing various construction, mostly with the American Forces. The same is true for my troop. They’ve recently gone to Africa and provided support to the Regular British Army on the ground there. We provide close engineering support to Regular Infantry, essentially, we’re their engineer component when they are out on operations.

“I’d say for me, being a Reservist takes up a bit more than the 28 days, but that’s a choice. That’s the great thing about the Reserves, you choose how much or how little.”



“As a Reservist I also input into Army events. Currently, I’m Artistic Director on an Army event called ‘Expo 24’ down in Wellington Barracks.

“The Army is making very good, and very economical, use of having experienced individuals in their Reserve Force. Some of my combat engineers are builders by trade, we’ve also got draftsmen and architects. These people have spent a lifetime training and building up their skillsets. So, it’s great that the Armed Forces sees the expertise each reservist can bring and allows them to add value where they can.”



“I think you make room for what’s important. You also rely on those around you. At my interview for the Tattoo, I made everyone aware of my Reservist commitments. The team were great, they agreed as long as I’m here for August, we can make it work. A strong support network is essential too. My son is my biggest supporter, which is amazing. Whether it’s family, or your colleagues, those that help pick up the slack whilst you are away are in turn also contributing to the work that you’re doing.”



“I really love to add value. In recent years, the Army’s really switched onto using Reservists' expertise. For example, in the creative events side, they recognize my years of experience and are brilliant at going “yeah we can do it, but we can do it even better if he’s here”, and I really like that.

“Secondly, I’m in a brilliant field squadron out of Sheffield and my troop out of Batley. The men and women that I have care of are just exceptional human beings. Watching how they give their service and then give the best of themselves whilst juggling their civilian lives is really humbling. That’s a really big thing for me.”



“No person is an island, we are all connected. As individuals we should ask ourselves “am I able to serve/contribute, and should I?” For me, being a Reservist is my contribution, I serve my community and my nation. Many of the other Reservists feel the same and for that reason, it’s a very exciting group to be a part of.

“I’m also Chair of a Scout group in the Holme valley in Yorkshire. Mostly providing administrative and strategic leadership support to an organisation that is brilliant. I think COVID really showed us the importance of community. Whether you’re serving in your Armed Forces, or the local Scout group, or the Guides or litter picking, whatever it is, you’re making your contribution to the whole. You serve. That is really important.”



“As a kid when I first saw a Tattoo, I thought “wow, imagine telling your story at that scale”, ever since I’ve had a passion for them. And so, this has been my ambition for a long time.

“Now I’m here, what gets me really excited is the thought of positive influence. There are 8,800 people coming every night, all from different backgrounds, there for different reasons and they’re going to remember this how for the rest of their lives. It’s like magic, if we say the right things, in the right order, that is going to change what they think and how they behave forever. That is just amazing.”



“The Tattoo is many things, and it’s important that I understand that and honour all of them. But there are three things that I believe are really important and I get really excited about.

“The first is that it is a huge play made by communities. So, in that sense, it’s a massive piece of community theatre and I’m really comfortable with that.

“Secondly, it’s the best and biggest platform for traditional art forms that we cherish and must never lose. So, if you’re a bagpiper or highland drummer, you want to come through that drawbridge, if you’re a highland dancer, you want to be on that Esplanade, and that is amazing.

“Thirdly, is the military connection. It’s the link to our past, to our virtues and our values that have stood the test of time.

“You put all three of those things together and you’re like “BOOM, bring the fireworks!” that’s the exciting bit.”


Alan’s currently working on our 2025 Show celebrating 75 years of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Next year’s Show will run 1-23 August 2025. Tickets will go on sale this August, sign up to our mailing list and be first to hear when they become available.