First World War centenary to inspire opening event for the Edinburgh 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.

A still from Peter Jackson's 3D film about the First World War. The Oscar winner has restored 100-year-old archive footage, some of which has never been seen before, from the Imperial War Museums' vast archive, using digital technology. Picture; PA

Award-winning Scottish musician and composer Anna Meredith will join forces with 59 Productions, the digital animation company behind recent EIF opening events.

The first collaboration between the EIF and the BBC Proms, will also see Meredith’s new work, Five Telegrams, staged in London this year.

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Meredith, crowned Scottish Album of the Year winner in 2016, is one of several leading Scottish artists who have won commissions for the finale of a four-year arts programme marking the centenary.

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, 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.”

Another visual artist, Christine Borland, will be presenting new work at Kelvingrove art gallery based objects linked to the war from the Glasgow Museums archives.

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

Meanwhile Oscar-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson is creating a new 3D movie drawn from archive footage from the Imperial War Museum and BBC recordings.

The EIF is in the third year of a sponsorship deal with Standard Life which has paid for large-scale opening events.

EIF director Fergus Linehan said: “It will be on a free public show on a similar scale to the opening events on previous years, although it will only be staged over one night.

“It will looking back to the end of the First World War as a time of real change and will also reflect the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the UK, as well as Scotland’s Year of Young People.

“We’ve been talking about an event with the Proms for some time. You can put a lot of work into an vent like this and it is all over in a night. We’re also going to put more of an emphasis on filming it 
this year so it has more of a legacy.”

Jenny Waldman, director of the 14-18 NOW programme, said: “We want to make the culmination of our programme of art commissions for the 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.”