IT will last less than 20 minutes, but is expected to attract more than 27,000 people to watch the dramatic transformation of an iconic national landmark formed around 350 million years ago.
The Edinburgh International Festival’s opening spectacular will see the city’s castle rock become a rugged canvas for spectacular projections and illuminations charting its geological history.
The Deep Time event, which will herald the launch of the 70th EIF in August, will see the western facade of the castle become a giant work of art, set to the soundtrack of music by Glasgow indie-rock band Mogwai, one of the acts performing at the Festival.
One of the UK’s leading digital animation companies, 59 Productions, is joining forces with leading Edinburgh University academics to create a piece of work exploring the city’s “intellectual legacy.”
The free event, which will celebrate the 3000-year-old heritage of the castle and the rock’s volcanic origins, will also honour James Hutton, the 18th century Edinburgh scientist who became known as “the father of geology”.
The first images showing how the castle may look were released as it emerged that Castle Terrace will be closed to traffic to accommodate the vast outdoor audience.
Deep Time, which is being staged on a Sunday to avoid clashing with the Tattoo, is the festival’s follow-up to last year’s curtain-raiser, The Harmonium Project. Almost 20,000 festival-goers descended on Lothian Road to see the Usher Hall transformed.
Organisers have decided to make the new event all-ticket, with the first batch being put up for grabs on 11 July, with a limit of two tickets per person. The 18-minute show on 7 August will also be streamed on the EIF site.
Deep Time is being partly bankrolled by Edinburgh-based finance giants Standard Life, which has unveiled a new sponsorship deal for the festival which will allow it to stage “ever more exciting” opening events in the next few years, according to EIF director Fergus Linehan.
The festival has launched a three-year collaboration with 59 Productions, whose track record includes the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, the V&A’s David Bowie exhibition and projects at Sydney Opera House and the United Nations building in New York.
The company has been plotting the event with the festival since last autumn, with several other site around the city, including Salisbury Crags, and the former Donalson’s deaf school among the other sites considered.
Leo Warner, creative director of 59 Productions and director of Deep Time, said: “Deep Time gives us an opportunity to build on the success of The Harmonium Project and to create a spectacular event that is more deeply connected to the story of the city.
“Long-term partnerships like these allow us as artists to take bold creative decisions that advance our understanding of theatricality, spectacle and new technology, so we can continue to inspire and surprise our audiences.”
Mr Linehan said: “We didn’t quite expect the numbers to be as great as they were last year.
“We’ve put some procedures in place to make sure this year’s event is safe and not have people come all the way down to the event and then not be able to accommodate them.
“We’ll be holding back modest amounts of the tickets to release in August but we’d also like to encourage people to return their tickets to us if they find they can’t use them.”
Keith Skeoch, Standard Life’s chief executive, said: “We’re a global business which is very proud of our Scottish roots and the pioneering ideas which have been developed here.
“This is another great example of innovative and creative work which will be enjoyed by the live audience and millions of others through the power of social media and online.”