Lumiere Festival

Lumiere is the UK's largest light festival, featuring light-based art installations across the city for four days. Produced by Artichoke and commissioned for the fourth time by Durham City Council, this year's festival offered a host of different artworks against the beautiful backdrop of Durham City.

Lumiere Festival

As Lumiere only comes to Durham once every two years it is a very big and hugely popular event for the city, often featuring local monuments such as the Castle and the Cathedral lit up with the artists' work. The event is free but requires tickets for certain areas between 4.30-7.30pm to limit the crowds. After this the event is open to all until 11pm. Installations are split between the popular 'peninsula' area where the Castle and Cathedral are, and surrounding areas of the city.

Fogscape below the Cathedral

This year had some fantastic installations, which made beautiful use of the city scenery, for example 'Mysticète' by Top'là Design and Catherine Garret, which featured a very life-like projection and audio of a whale in the River Wear. 'Fogscape #03238' by Fujiko Nakaya and Simon Corder also utilised the river, conjuring a ghostly fog across the water below the Cathedral, on the other side of which you could see 'The World Machine', a projection developed by three artists in conjunction with a Durham University professor to show the birth of modern cosmology including an amazing visual display of our solar system.

On top of the planned programme for the four days, many installations featured a tribute to Paris on Saturday in response to the events of Friday evening. Politics aside, this was a very beautiful and moving gesture from the artists involved, arranged on the day itself.

Unfortunately the organisation of the event did make it quite stressful to get around, as many roads and pathways were one-way but this was not signposted, leaving many people confused as to where they could go. Paired with how busy the event was, even late at night, this made it very difficult to see everything, even if you came prepared with a map and a plan.

Despite this, Lumiere is an amazing event and well worth seeing, firstly for the brilliant art, but also for how it brings the city to life at night. My personal favourites this year included 'Garden of Light' which was so charming and peaceful; like something out of a fairy-tale, and 'Cloud' which featured hundreds of lightbulbs with cords which you could use to switch them on and off, looking perfectly like a cloud with rain. However, the best was the 'Fool's Paradise' projection onto the Castle. This piece was made to look like a village of small houses, which were then obscured by a number of folk tales, including the Pied Piper and a Werewolf. Accompanied by a score to match this piece was beautifully atmospheric, using one of Durham's most famous landmarks.

Overall, I would fully recommend Lumiere to anyone, as it is an entirely different way to see art and it is a brilliant, wintery event for adults and children alike.

Lumiere will also be in London for the first time, 14-17 January 2016.


Ellen Orange

Ellen Orange Contributor

I am a 24 year old Marketing Officer from the North East with a passion for arts and writing. I did a BA in English Literature and an MA in Twentieth and Twenty First Century Literature at Durham University, because I love books and reading! I have experience in writing for a variety of student publications, as well as having contributed to Living North, a regional magazine and Culture magazine, a supplement to regional newspaper, The Journal. I have been part of a Young Journalists scheme writing for NewcastleGateshead's Juice Festival, a young people's arts and culture festival, and have since become a Team Juice member. As well as reading and writing, I love theatre, photography and crafts.

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  • Joanne Brydon

    On 17 November 2017, 12:20 Joanne Brydon commented:

    On a visit to Durham in November 2009, I experienced Lumiere for the very first time. The experience had by myself and my family was absolutely amazing! Following that 2009 visit, it is now a family tradition that we attend every Lumiere festival. This year will be our fifth! Words can not describe how beautiful and heart warming this festival of light is, and the emense joy it brings to Myself and my family! Proud to be from Durham, proud of Lumiere!

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