Five Telegrams: Opening event at the Edinburgh International Festival 2018

Edinburgh International Festival, 59 Productions, Anna Meredith, BA performance Costume students, ECA, UoE (Photographer), Megan Baker (Developer)

Research output: Non-textual formPerformance


I led a large collaboration with our Performance Costume programme at ECA, the Edinburgh International festival, Richard Slaney from 59 productions and Composer Anna Meredith for the opening ceremony of the International festival at the Usher Hall on 3rd August 2018.

Five Telegrams was a large scale, live, audio visual spectacular which celebrated the opening of the 2018 Edinburgh International festival and the year of young people, marking the centenary of the end of the first world war to an audience of 15,000 people. I proposed to the International festival the idea of a live element to the opening ceremony. To mark Scotland’s Year of young people I worked with the International festival, 59 productions and Anna Meredith to write a brief and develop design ideas for students to create costumes based on telegrams sent during the war reflecting on the nature of communication and information, drawing parallels with current methods of communication, asking questions of how we protect truth in a time of censorship and disinformation. It was very much a collaborative design process as students were working on their designs prior to the music being composed or the digital design being created. We wanted the students to express their individual and personal responses whilst keeping a coherent look for maximum impact as a group of designs, to be contemporary and relevant yet resonate with the emotions of soldiers from 100 years ago and ensure that the costumes reflected light as they would be seen by the audience in the dark. This was realised through an epic choral climax in which Performance Costume students designed and made 250 costumes for young people embedded within the crowd singing live to the second movement- ‘field telegrams and personal communication’ written by Anna Meredith alongside Richard Slaney’s digital projection on the Usher Hall. Richard Slaney reflected on the co- design as a valuable endeavour stating “working with the performance costume students was a fascinating and brilliant experience, to put more than 30 individuals’ thoughts and ideas into a unified costume design was a challenge, but represented the stories we wanted to tell”. Richard visited the students later in the year to debrief, thank the students, show them his VR of the event and discuss his process after he had worked with them. Anna Meredith took some of the costumes for her band to wear for their future concerts. Students were also given a range of opportunities by the festival including paid positions to assist on the rehearsals and event, attending stake holders meetings and related events. I liaised with the University’s and EIF ‘s press and marketing team throughout the process to ensure all stages of the development of this collaboration has been documented through film and photography. The collaboration gained very good critical acclaim.

The event was followed by an exhibition of the students work at the Festival theatre in Edinburgh during the festival 2018.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2018


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