Free tickets released for Edinburgh International Festival's Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: Five Telegrams

  • Thousands of FREE tickets available from 10am on Monday 2 July
  • Title Sponsorship renewed and to continue for a further three years from 2019 with Aberdeen Standard Investments
  • The event marks the centenary of the end of the First World War and is co-designed by young people, in celebration of Scotland’s Year of Young People and reflecting on the young people who gave their lives in 1918.
  • The large scale multi-media work created by Anna Meredith and 59 Productions, brings together a symphony orchestra, youth chorus with illuminations and projections at the Usher Hall to officially open the International Festival on the 3 August and is free to attend


Today, the Edinburgh International Festival announced 15,000 free tickets for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: Five Telegrams will be available from 10am on Monday 2 July.

The Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: Five Telegrams is an outdoor performance created by composer Anna Meredith and 59 Productions, comprising large-scale illuminations and projections on the Usher Hall and a new work for orchestra and chorus which opens the International Festival on the 3 August, 10.30pm.

A major co-commission between the International Festival, 14-18 NOW the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, and BBC Proms, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: Five Telegrams welcomes both Edinburgh residents and visitors, opening both the International Festival and the city’s world-renowned festival season.

Lothian Road will close, allowing audiences to experience the event from a dedicated arena in Festival Square, from which they can view 59 Productions’ projected animations on the outside of the Usher Hall, and hear the score composed by Anna Meredith. In a new move, this year’s Opening Event includes a live performance element for the first time, featuring hundreds of local young people who will bring Five Telegrams to life within the Square.

The event marks both the centenary of the end of the First World War and celebrates Scotland’s Year of Young People. In an addition to young people taking part in the event, it has been co-designed by young people, providing a poignant reflection on the thousands of young lives lost in the First World War.

The Edinburgh International Festival is also pleased to announce that the title sponsorship of the Opening Event has been renewed for a further three years, and will continue with Aberdeen Standard Investments from 2019 to 2021.

Commenting, Graeme McEwan, Chief Communications Officer, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that our partnership with the Edinburgh International Festival is to continue for another three years. The Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event puts the spotlight on Edinburgh as a global cultural capital. It’s a world class event that we are proud to be part of.”

International Festival Director Fergus Linehan, said: “Collaboration sits right at the heart of this event, whether in the creation of Five Telegrams by Anna Meredith and 59 Productions, our co-commissioning of this new work with 14-18 Now and the BBC Proms, through to partnerships with the many supporters who make this event possible. Over the last few years, the Opening Event has grown to become a multi-partner project and I’d like to say thank you to all of them – Aberdeen Standard Investments, Scotland’s Year of Young People through Event Scotland, the University of Edinburgh, Blue-i Theatre Technology and Mclcreate.

“We’re also delighted to announce the renewal of our title sponsorship, which will move forward with Aberdeen Standard Investments. Knowing that this relationship will continue to 2021, helps us plan ahead with confidence and we look forward to working with the Aberdeen Standard Investment team over the next three years.”

Richard Slaney, Director of Five Telegrams, said: "Five Telegrams is a huge collaboration, and the fact that we can welcome 15,000 people to come and experience it for free to kick off the opening of this year's Edinburgh International Festival, mirrors the coming together of the commission itself. 59 Productions has been working closely with Anna Meredith since the very start; we've shared ideas and themes that Anna has graciously taken into her composition. We’ve also worked for the very first time with some brilliant emerging designers from Edinburgh College of Art on costumes for the live performance, as well as researching the First World War thematic ideas with our commissioners at 14-18 NOW. Bringing all of these elements together for the 3 August Opening Event we hope that audiences will find Five Telegrams both boldly eye-catching as well as thought-provoking". 

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “In the Year of Young People 2018, it is fantastic to see young people playing a central role in the Opening Event of the world-renowned Edinburgh International Festival. Through their involvement behind the scenes, in costume design and performing as part of a 250 strong youth choir, our young people will present their amazing talents for the whole world to see.

Their contributions will no doubt make for a memorable evening and reinforce Scotland’s position as the perfect stage for events. We are delighted to be supporting the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event through the Year of Young People 2018 Event Fund.”

Event Information

Five Telegrams is a twenty-five minute work in five movements, bringing together a symphony orchestra, youth chorus, and large-scale illuminations and projections at Edinburgh’s iconic Usher Hall. Each of the five movements reflects on modes of communication during the period of the First World War and how it resonates today. Anna Meredith and Richard Slaney from 59 Productions have explored communications carrying messages from the period and identified themes during site visits to The Imperial War Museum throughout the creation and development period.

Five Telegrams draws on five central themes, rooted in the period between 1914-1918 but drawing parallels in contemporary culture:

Ciphers & Codes – the piece will explore visual codes, Morse code, code breaking, Room 40 and the Zimmerman telegram, semaphore and trench codes, informing the musical rhythm and beats which link with the projected imagery.

Redaction - censorship and the containment of communication is explored, examining the loss of personality and character in communications sent home from the field by soldiers due to the reduction and redaction of personal communication.

Propaganda & News Reporting - the disparity between reality and public communications both historically and currently in media provides room for the layering of material where the real truth of a story could be buried and later revealed.

Field Postcards & Personal Communications - text in personal communications, censored or anonymised by the State provides inspiration for choral moments and the sound of young voices alongside the visual texts.

Armistice - marking the end of the conflict and noting the sense of ‘what next?’ and the colossal loss of young lives. Musically, it will build towards an anti-climactic cessation of fighting with a decisive change of landscape at that point in the piece.

59 Productions digital animations will be projected on to surfaces of the Usher Hall in tandem with Meredith’s score creating a moving audio and visual event. The Usher Hall will be mapped and used as the canvas for 59 Productions’ digital projections and the live recording of Anna Meredith’s work played across Festival Square. Edinburgh is Anna Meredith’s home town and the scene of many 59 Productions’ successes, marking a homecoming and a coming together this August.

Five Telegrams is supported by the Year of Young People 2018 Event Fund, managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.

Scotland’s young people will have an integral and integrated role in realising the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: Five Telegrams, from co-design, through to production and delivery. The event will include significant contributions from Scotland’s young people, with the event creatives and teams at the International Festival working in partnership with the Year of Young People 2018 and Edinburgh College of Art within the University of Edinburgh.

Young people have co-designed elements of the project from the performance and costumes to filming and will take up production roles to deliver the event. The Opening Event for the first time includes a live performance element making this an even more immersive experience. 250 young voices are central to the event and will evoke and remind the audience of the catastrophic loss of young lives and place the voices of young people today at the forefront of our reflection on the centenary of the First World War. 

Five Telegrams also marks an historic partnership with The BBC Proms that will see two great festivals working closely together. The project will open both the International Festival outside the Usher Hall on 3 August and the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on 13 July. This joint production marks the first time the International Festival and the Proms have worked together in this way. Events at both locations are rooted in the same creative content but have distinguishing elements. 

Five Telegrams is co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Arts Commissions, BBC Proms and Edinburgh International Festival.

The Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: Five Telegrams

Supported by EventScotland in celebration of Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018, University of Edinburgh, Blue-i Theatre Technology and mcl create

Created by 59 Productions and Anna Meredith

In association with Edinburgh College of Art and Year of Young People 2018

Image credit: 50 Productions

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