Lumiere Durham celebrates ten years and a million visitors

Photo by Matthew Andrews.

The tenth anniversary edition of Lumiere Durham closed on Sunday 17th November, after four spectacular evenings showcasing light art across the city. Hundreds of thousands of people braved incessant rain to experience the event. First estimates put the number of visitors at 165,000, bringing the number of people who have enjoyed the festival since it began in 2009 at just over one million. Lumiere is produced by Artichoke, the UK’s leading producers of art in the public realm, and commissioned by Durham County Council with additional support from Arts Council England, Durham University and a host of further funders and supporters.

The largest light festival in the UK saw visitors enjoy 37 dramatic installations and projections showcasing the creativity of both international and local artists working in the medium of light. Iconic landmarks were transformed, including Durham Cathedral, lit up from within by candlelit installation Spirit, whilst the public could manipulate the sound and light installation Stones on the historic building’s exterior.

As always the programme had a strong international element, with artists from Canada, New Zealand, Portugal and France bringing their work to Durham. Visitor favourites included Geometrical Traces by Spanish artist Javier Riera, whose mesmerising artwork created 3-D patterns across the treeline above Prebends Bridge, and Fujiko Nakaya’s Fogscape #03238, a ghostly shape-shifting vapour that wound its way around the trees and over the river underneath Durham Cathedral.

The long-awaited return of Jaques Rival’s giant snow globe in Durham’s Market Place, with its joyful neon affirmation I Love Durham, drew smiles in the rain from visitors young and old alike. Another favourite return was the colossal Baleen whale Mysticete, by French artists Top’la Design / Catherine Garret. Belfast-based artist Deepa Mann-Kler brightened the South Bailey streets with Shoefiti, her garlands of illuminated 3D-printed trainers that
referenced the mysterious act of shoe-tossing. Amelia Kosminsky’s Celestial Brainstorm encouraged audiences to interact whilst contemplating the disruptive effects of irregular brain activity, whilst the ingenenious Human Tiles installation invited audiences to transform the facade of the Gala Theatre as part of an interactive video-mapping work that recalled the ornate tiles of Portugal.

Further afield, more than 150 local people aged from 5 to 85 years took to the piano for Keys of Light in a series of performances from Shostakovich to The Greatest Showman, that generated an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colours and patterns across the exterior of Rushford Court with every chord.

Hundreds more local people had taken part in the preparations for this tenth anniversary festival, helping to make installations such as Bottle Festoon, Friendship Tree, and Are Atoms Alive? Students from Durham Sixth Form Centre collaborated with Portuguese artists Ocubo & Storybox from New Zealand to make Are Atoms Alive? a short film exploring science displayed across nine shipping containers. East Durham College students reimagined the student union building Dunelm House with new video projection artwork Lift Off, developed from the Apollo 50 project in Peterlee earlier this year. Dan Shorten from Guildhall School of Music & Drama, who provided guidance for this project, also presented the immersive walkway Light Tunnel, located in Crown Court Gardens which proved to be another crowd-pleaser.

Once again the BRILLIANT programme offered four talented local people the opportunity to create a completely new piece of light art and play a central part in the festival’s tenth anniversary. Lucy McDonnell’s End Over End, a super-sized neon slinky, brightened up the Milburngate site, whilst Penelope Payne’s projection Blue Skies, tucked under Milburngate Bridge, also brought a touch of sunshine to the festival despite the weather. Keen-eyed visitors will have spotted Mike Donaghy’s playful alteration of two sets of traffic lights for his artwork A Different View. By contrast Washed Up, an assemblage work made from bright plastic objects found on the beaches of the North East, delivered a serious message, with artist Diane Watson encouraging people to look closer and consider the impact of their plastic use.

The Next Page, a striking neon words artwork displayed on the back of Clayport Library will become a permanent fixture in the city thanks to support from the Banks Community Fund. Created as part of a project with women at HMP Low Newton following a series of writing workshops with poet Hannah Jane Walker, it will join the existing permanent Lumiere installations Heron, Lightbenches and Helvetictoc, also supported by the Banks Community Fund.

Photo by Matthew Andrews.

The Lumiere Conference is always a highlight for arts and education professionals visiting the festival. This year, Learning Curve: Syllabus for the Future, sponsored by Learning Curve Group, took place on Friday 15th November, and audiences heard from a range of visionary speakers and experts on the role of creativity in learning, including Andria Zafirakou, recipient of the Global Teacher Prize in 2018, and the poet Kate Clanchy.

Helen Marriage, Artistic Director of Artichoke, said: “When Artichoke created our first Lumiere festival in Durham in 2009, we never expected that we’d be celebrating its 10th anniversary. Over the years, we’ve brought artists from all over the world to transform Durham’s cityscape, including major international figures like Fujiko Nakaya (Japan), Tracy Emin (UK), Pablo Valbuena (Spain) and Rafael Lozano Hemmer (Mexico) presenting them alongside established and emerging artists all working with light. Thousands of local people have been involved in Lumiere projects during this decade and our community involvement is set to grow further with dedicated work in the “off” years as well. It is a wonderful partnership, with Durham County Council, with local businesses and institutions that support the festival and just as importantly, with the people of Durham themselves.”

Terry Collins, Chief Executive of Durham County Council, said: “This year, the tenth anniversary of Lumiere, has once again provided us with an unforgettable programme of installations which have lit up Durham in a truly magical way, attracting international acclaim and receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback.

Over the last decade, Lumiere has brought huge benefits to County Durham’s communities and economy, and given thousands of local people the opportunity to engage with art. I’d like to thank our friends at Artichoke, our partners, sponsors, businesses, residents, staff, emergency services and the volunteers who, despite the rain, made Lumiere 2019 such an incredible experience, and I look forward to its return in 2021.”

Artichoke is grateful to all their supporters and installation sponsors.

  • The following artworks received support from:
    Keys of Light — believe housing and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, hosted by Durham University. Community workshops supported by County Durham Community Foundation
  • Celestial Brainstorm — Dyer Engineering and Unusual
  • Fool’s Paradise — EMG Solicitors
  • Wave — Riverwalk
  • Mysticète — Milburngate
  • Are Atoms Alive? — Kier and the Embassy of Portugal, Creative New Zealand and Parsons Containers Ltd
  • Helvetictoc , Heron and Lightbenches — Banks Community Fund
  • Human Tiles and The Stars Come Out At Night — Walkergate
  • The Next Page — Banks Community Fund, National Lottery Community Fund and Urban Base and Evan Cornish Foundation
  • Light Tunnel — Silverwood Cars
  • Lift Off — UpNorth Group, the Ragdoll Foundation and Guildhall School of Music & Drama. In partnership with East Durham College.
  • Cosmic Architecture and For the Birds — Durham University
  • I Love Durham — CBRE
  • Big Knitting — Woven Inc.
  • Cloud — Prince Bishops Shopping Centre
  • Spirit — Tolent and Hargreaves Land
  • Shoefiti — The University of Sunderland
  • Geometrical Traces — Spain arts & culture and Embassy of Spain, London
  • Fogscape #03238 — Japan Foundation
  • Bottle Festoon — County Durham Community Foundation, Hays Travel Foundation and St. Margaret’s Centre

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