Celebrating cities in light

Festivals of Light have increasingly been used to attract and entrance visitors. Although they are temporary, they can have long-lasting benefits. Helen Marriage, the curator of the inspiring Lumiere festival in Durham, England, shares her pick of the best.

Spectacular lighting effects, installations and interventions transform cities from Sydney to Montreal in the form of Light Festivals, some for a few nights, others for weeks. In 2015, light artists of all sorts and nationalities will take over the nightscape of the historic city of Durham in the north of England. The art is being specially commissioned by the creative company Artichoke, founded in 2005 by Helen Marriage and Nicky Webb.

Their joint aim ‘is to work with artists to create extraordinary, largescale events that appeal to the widest possible audience,’ they say. ‘We don’t believe the arts should take place only behind the closed doors of theatres or art galleries. Instead, we put on shows in unusual places: in the streets, public spaces or in the countryside.’

The 2015 edition of Lumiere Durham will be the fourth, the first having taken place in 2009. In November 2013, Lumiere Durham immediately preceded Lumiere in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, as part of its tenure as a City of Culture.

Artichoke brought 27 stunning installations to Durham. They included Elephantastic, Top’là Design's extraordinary optical illusion of an elephant lost in the city and The Projection Studio’s 'Crown of Light' on the facade of the Norman cathedral celebrating its recent hosting of the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Derry’s installations included the self-explanatory Neon Dogs by Deepa Mann-Kler and A Stitch in Time by Tim Etchells. The latter, fashioned from huge steel letters and LED lamps, became one of the festival’s few permanent installations and remains atop the old Rosemount Shirt factory as a reminder of when Derry was the shirt-making capital of the world. The two festivals were individually curated and programmed, with a mix of high profile artist commissions, local artists and community initiatives and both attracted more than 175,000 visitors.

As a curator, Helen Marriage says she and Artichoke are ‘interested in ephemera and exploration – the excitement of the temporary,’ and that this is reflected in the public’s anticipation of events such as Lumiere. But there is also a question about what festivals of light leave as legacy. Lighting Urban Community International (LUCI), which is concerned with lighting’s role in urban development, says almost two thirds of its 66 city members organise some form of lighting festival, from light nights or nuits blanches through to entire seasons.

Read the full article on in Fagerhult's latest issue of The Innovator (on page 46)

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