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A first-timer's experience of the Durham Lumiere Festival 2015

Written by Arts, Print Edition, Reviews

The first Durham Lumiere took place in 2009 originally as a one off. However, since then it has grown in popularity and creativity, to now be in its sixth year and is recognised as the UK’s largest light festival. It had 30 instillations this year, some open to all the public and the others were only for those lucky ticket holders.

I took the short train ride to Durham on Thursday evening, opening night, at around 9 o’clock, luckily avoiding the terrible weather and most of the crowds. I can honestly say I was amazed at the instillations. I had not heard of the festival before, and naïvely expected it to be similar to Blackpool Illuminations, but it was so much more than building lit up. There are 3D instillations and the whale, I think, was a talking point for most there; a little girl next to me even asked if it was a real whale in the river. It really was a wonder to behold.

The obvious destination to head to after was the cathedral. I passed other small instillations on my way, the quaint streets glowing warmly with lanterns hanging above. I did not expect the scale of the sound and the complexity of the images to be as they were. I really enjoyed the somewhat controversial idea of projecting biblical images, following those of science, maths and space synchronised to music. The prospect of rain threatened overhead but that did not put anyone off, with the crowds in their hundreds witnessing the laminations. Next I followed the crowd into the cathedral where I was blown away by the tranquillity; starring up at the ceiling where a mesmerizing display was taking place. Moreover, there were interactive instillations: the message in the bottles and the jam jar all encouraged audience participation.

The fact that this festival is so popular doesn’t surprise me, and nor does the fact that the capital city is having an instillation done by the same producers, Artichoke, in January.  It really does change the game with projection and I can definitely tell you one thing; I will be visiting every year without fail and encourage you to do the same.

Last modified: 23rd November 2015

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