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Light up the city: ‘Durham Lumiere Lights Festival’ review

Written by Travel

As we venture into the Winter months and begin to seemingly exist in a perpetual state of darkness, the perfect cure for the November blues was – for a limited time only – the Durham Lumiere Festival.

Sprawling across the city as a giant art exhibition, the pieces came together from a variety of artists, visions and nations to culminate in a walkable tour through the city center. The event was notably popular amongst Newcastle students who ventured by train to join in the festivities right up until the last train home on Sunday 17th November; the final day of the festival.  

The exhibitions lit up the city in an array of colours and designs. Some were spiritual, such as Chris Plants’ ‘Harmonic Portal’, displayed on the wall outside St Godric’s Church. The rings of light throbbed in time to an eerie, meditative beat and encouraged observers to consider the ‘three frequencies used by our brains to create colour’ (Source: Lumiere Festival). Others were fun and bright, such as French artist Jacques Rival’s ‘I love Durham’, consisting of an enormous snow globe engulfing the ‘man on the horse’ statue in Durham’s Market Place. Or perhaps the neon lights of Lucy McDonnell’s giant rainbow slinky – titled ‘End over end’ – took the title of the quirkiest light exhibit. One of the more interactive was ‘CLOUD’ in the Prince Bishop shopping center. Created by Canadian artists Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett, the display was surrounded by children pulling on the glowing white toggles and watching the thousands of tiny bulbs flicker on and off on a fantastical cloud tree. 

Image Credits: John Lord from Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

 Doubtlessly the main attraction, however, was the cathedral. On all sides lit up with enormous projections, it featured as a fantasy on the west façade overlooking the main bridge in a spectacle entitled ‘Fool’s Paradise’ by UK-based artists Novak. At times somewhat disturbing as a giant projected maggot appeared to rip through the cathedral, it still maintained a sweet vibe as the walls of the building transformed into a Scandanavian-esque cityscape and then into a twinkling night sky. Walking to the Palace Green on the other side of the cathedral revealed the stunning ‘Stones’ display projected onto the Cathedral as it pulsed, fell apart, waved and was engulfed with flames in a totally transformative performance. Inside the Cathedral was ‘Spirit’, a feature of floating lights swaying in time to a live musical performance which was both eerie and wonderous, musicians La Rose and izOReL creating mystical instrumental, almost inhuman melodies with their voices. The exhibition continued out through the gardens with fire alchemy displays providing not only a pretty scene but also some very desired warmth. 

Image Credit: Adrian Beney from Wikicommons (CC BY 3.0)

Durham Lumiere festival provided some sorely needed wonder to the drag of the recent November weather. It was a magical treasure hunt encouraging constant exclamations of awe from the young and the old alike. Despite maps being difficult to come by, the joy of finding these exhibitions wandering around the city almost made the experience more wondrous. The long queues for the Cathedral entrance and along the riverbank were more intimidating than inconvenient, and the minutes were easily passed with a hot chocolate and in good company. The collective mood was cheery or perhaps even festive, hopefully paving the way for a more Christmassy end of term spirit despite the November blues.  

Feature Image Credits: JLK_254 from Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Last modified: 3rd December 2019

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