Durham Lumiere 2015: The UK’s Largest Light Festival Visits the North East

Lumiere is the largest light festival in the UK and it’s bringing a little “light” entertainment to Durham City this week, but only for a few days (12th – 15th November). The displays are situates all over the city, but most of the best ones are within close proximity to the city centre and the fact that it is situated in an area where the River Wear loops around into a U-shape has made it very easy for the authorities to close off the city centre by placing security personnel and police at all of the bridges and other points of entry. Between 16:30 and 19:30 nobody can gain entry to the city centre unless they have a ticket, but they sold out fast and there are none left.

There are nearly 30 attractions to see, including a garden of light and interactive cloud sculpture, so it’s not surprising that the tickets sold out so quickly. However, if you are already in the centre of the city when the restrictions come into place you can experience everything for free, so I made the trip to Durham yesterday and made sure I was the right side of the boundaries by 15:00.

When everything kicked-off at 16:30 I was sitting in the centre of the market place watching Lumiere personnel struggling with something that looked vaguely reminiscent of giant sperm. A policewoman described it as flying fish, so either she had a much better imagination than me or it wasn’t as good. There are several of these “fish”, the Lumiere guide book says they are called a Lumineoles and describes them as a “floating, dream-like creatures”. When it finally went airborne and started to change colour it was quite impressive, but I thought it would look better when the sky got a little darker so I wandered off in search of something else.

Les Lumineoles - Durham Lumiere (2015)

Lumineoles in Duraham (2015)

When I returned later on the floating, dream-like creature had acquired a friend and, as I suspected, the display was much better when silhouetted against a darker sky.

Durham Lumier 2015 (Les Lumineoles)

Some of the other displays failed to wow me, but there’s certainly plenty to see, a few of which are incredibly good. Unfortunately I failed to get close enough to get a good look at the most popular attraction—a huge holographic whale splashing around in the river. I saw and heard it from the top of high rise car park though and I can see why so many people considered it to be the star of the show.

Here’s some video footage captured by someone who did manage to get close enough to experience the whale at its best:

Apart from the floating sperm-like creatures my favourite displays were the Garden of Light, next to Durham Cathedral …

Garden of Light (Durham Lumiere 2015)

Garden of Light (Lumiere Festival - Durham)

. . . and the World Machine, which was projected onto the cathedral walls. I failed to get footage of the full display, but you can watch the last two minutes of it below.

This post is getting a little long now, so I’m going to wind it up, but if you want to get a better idea of the other attractions check out the programme page at the Lumiere website. The site also provides a sneak peak of the programme for the London Lumiere in January 2016.


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