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The World Machine © Courtesy of Poppy Kelham
The World Machine © Courtesy of Poppy Kelham
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Lumiere Durham 2015: A Festival of Light

Picture of Alice Barber
Updated: 24 April 2017
When thinking of the beautiful historic city of Durham, contemporary experimental art isn’t the first cultural attraction to spring to mind. However, from November 12th-15th, Durham played host to the stunning Lumiere Festival, the UK’s largest (and entirely free!) festival of light. Since being commissioned by Durham County Council in 2009, Lumiere has biennially transformed the city into a luminescent wonderland, this year making a triumphant return – and it was bigger and brighter than ever.
The World Machine © Courtesy of Poppy Kelham
‘The World Machine’ mapped modern cosmology from the 12th century to the present | © Courtesy of Poppy Kelham

Looking back: the initial idea

Lumiere is produced by the Artichoke Trust, which was founded in 2005 with the intention of releasing art from the prison house of the gallery and bringing it into the streets. In using unique and public spaces, the trust is committed to enabling amazing art to reach a wider audience. Durham’s Lumiere was originally planned as a one-off event, and saw 20 glittering installations strewn across the city, with a comparatively modest crowd of 75,000 viewers across the weekend. However, this beacon of light in the dark winter months proved so thrilling that it was asked to return in 2011, and thus the festival was born. In this year’s fourth incarnation, the event saw 200,000 visitors flock to the medieval city.

Cloud © Courtesy of Poppy Kelham
Caitlind R. C. Brown and Wayne Garrett’s interactive ‘Cloud’ | © Courtesy of Poppy Kelham

Looking in: this year’s event

This year’s programme featured various works by internationally renowned artists, and presented 29 breathtaking installations, which set the city ablaze with a scintillating radiance. The captivating projections across the entire Cathedral, entitled ‘The World Machine’, showcased a glorious marriage of science and religion, while the River Wear played host to its very own life-like whale, projected using a selection of gravity fountains. A cloud composed entirely of light bulbs that spectators could switch on and off at leisure provided some charming interactive entertainment, while the ‘Garden of Light’ in the Cathedral Precinct dazzled crowds with an Alice-in-Wonderland-esque glow. Viewing the Cathedral from the opposite side of the river, eyes were met with the eerie and atmospheric ‘Fogscape’, billowing out from beneath it, and in the city centre, floating, fish-like creatures entrancingly danced to otherworldly music. From the iconic red brick Old Shire Hall, to the Castle, to the Viaduct, almost every piece of architecture was bathed in an awe-inspiring glow, which was brilliant in more ways than one.

The Red House © Courtesy of Poppy Kelham
Patrice Warrener’s rainbow hues accentuated Old Shire Hall’s already striking red-brick colour, creating ‘The Red House’ | © Courtesy of Poppy Kelham

Looking ahead: what’s next for Lumiere?

Plans are well underway for Lumiere’s Southern debut, when it will be illuminating London for four days in the New Year, from January 14th-17th. The iconic West End and familiar King’s Cross Station will be magically transformed with dancing neon and captivating projections. The attractions include a projection of Clearly Connelly’s innovative mapping of movement through strategically placed lamps around the human body, and Janet Echelman will present another huge floating fishing-net inspired sculpture, like 1.26 Durham, strung between London’s iconic buildings. The rest of the exciting lineup is yet to be revealed…

1.26 Durham © Courtesy of Poppy Kelham
‘1.26 Durham’: This giant net of lightweight fibres derived its name from the momentary speeding up of the earth by 1.26 microseconds in 2010, due to the strength of the Chilean earthquake | © Courtesy of Poppy Kelham

By Alice Barber

Alice Barber is an English Literature student and aspiring journalist who simply loves to write. She also has an incurable passion for theatre, and along with being addicted to attending shows, one day wishes to launch her own production company. Check out her online portfolio here.