Welsh National Opera’s Three Letters is a new, collaborative community song-cycle which aims to tackle societal stigma around HIV in support of Cardiff’s ambitious journey towards achieving zero HIV transmissions by 2030.

Designed and delivered in collaboration with Fast Track Cardiff, Three Letters draws inspiration from the AIDS Quilt Songbook project which began in America in 1992. The project seeks to raise public awareness of the contemporary realities of HIV, through the creation of a new set of songs which explore the stories of individuals living with HIV today.

The initial phase of the project began in September 2021 with a creative workshop day for over 160 Year 10 students at Cardiff West Community High School, which included sessions with writer and activist Mercy Shibemba, playwright and actor Nathaniel J Hall (It’s A Sin, First Time), and representatives from Fast Track Cardiff. A smaller group of students from the school have subsequently collaborated with Mercy, composer Michael Betteridge, and singer Siân Cameron, to create the first song of WNO’s Three Letters songbook: We learn, we know, we understand.

In coming years, WNO will work with more community groups and artists in the region to create a musical chronicle of Cardiff’s HIV past, present, and future.