First World War centenary event to open Edinburgh International Festival

The centenary of the end of the First World War is to be commemorated in a spectacular opening curtain-raiser for the Edinburgh International Festival.

Award-winning Scottish musician and composer Anna Meredith will be joining forces on the event with 59 Productions, the digital animation company behind the last three EIF opening events.

The project will also be the first major collaboration between the EIF and the BBC Proms, which will also stage Meredith's new work, Five Telegrams, at the Royal Albert Hall.

Meredith, from South Queensferry, who was crowned Scottish Album of the Year winner in 2018, is one of several leading Scottish artists who have won commissions for the finale of the official arts programme to mark the centenary of the conflict.

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Two new pieces of music have been commissioned to mark the centenary of the Iolaire tragedy, which saw more than 200 returning servicemen perish when their boat sank off the coast of the Isle of Lewis in 1918.

Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, from North Uist, Highland fiddler Duncan Chisholm and Lewis-born piper and composer Iain Morrison will be new suites of music to honour those who lost their lives in one of Britain's worst maritime disasters.

The work by Fowlis and Chisholm will honour John Finlay Macleod, who saved dozens of lives after managing to swim ashore with a rope.

Edinburgh-born visual artist Rachel Maclean, whose work represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale last year, will be creating a new feature film at the abandoned St Peter's Seminary at Cardross to mark the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote.

Maclean's work, which is described as part horror and part comedy, will imagine "a dystopian future where a group of women are trapped in a cruel reality TV style competition set within the brutal modern interior of St Peter's Seminary."

Sir James MacMillan, the leading composer, will be creating a major new work honouring the writing of the Aberdeen-based war poet Charles Hamilton Sorley, which will be staged at the Cumnock Tryst festival in his native Ayrshire.

Jenny Waldman, director of the 14-18 NOW programme, said: "We want to make the culmination of our programme of art commissions for the First World War centenary something that the whole UK will remember.

"Thanks to the brilliance of the artists, the 2018 season is an ambitious and interactive programme, which will reach new audiences in new ways.

"We're particularly keen to engage young people in the centenary through the lens of art which encourages them to look differently at the history of the period.”