Lumi-meh: lights festival fails to make impression

Written by News

From 14-17 November, Durham students were given something else to do besides pore over their tear-stained Oxbridge rejection letter, as Lumiere was in town.
One attendant’s rating of Lumiere out of 10
Image: Harmonic Portal by Chris Plant, photographed by John Lord on Flickr

The lights festival is the largest in the UK, and has frequented Durham every other year since 2009; to celebrate the event’s 10th birthday, 37 artworks were exhibited, including an outdoor corridor of lights, a ‘life-size’ snowglobe and displays projected onto buildings, trees and the River Wear. The event was a mix of old and new, with some artworks making a comeback from previous Lumieres, including Chris Plant’s Harmonic Portal, which explores the frequencies of the brain used to create colour, and Sanctuary, Sarah Blood’s installation of twelve neon birdsong-accompanied birdhouses.

Reporting on Lumiere is a job that has largely been outsourced to social media, with every Newcastle student’s Instagram stories awash with over-exposed attempts at doing the artworks justice. However, not everyone on-campus was impressed. Second year economics student and Lumiere attendee Aidan Smith said that “the crowds made it unbearable. Manners were non-existent as everyone was pushing their way forward”, adding that the lights were nothing more than “sub-standard”.

Rude attendants wasn’t the only issue: ticket holders at three of the four nights had to contend with rain, contributing to Lumiere’s first ever drop in attendance year-on-year. 2019’s Lumiere saw roughly 75 000 fewer attendees than its 2017 predecessor, representing a more than 30% drop that made this year the lowest ever attended.

Stickers emerged in protest of Lumiere

The poor turnout shouldn’t come entirely as a surprise, given its lack of popularity with certain demographics. Take the environmental lobby: stickers have been put up on streetlights all around The Bailey, in central Durham, with text reading “THE WORLD BURNS! But at least it looks pretty!!!” in front of a picture of a forest fire. The stickers also included the hashtags #NoLumiere and #TurnTheLightsOff.

With feedback as harsh and attendance as low, it would seem the most Lumiere 2021 can hope to be is a comeback.

Last modified: 24th January 2020

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