Light Festivals with installations projected onto old buildings or free standing are becoming more and more popular and are very impressive. The first one we went to was in Durham in 2008 and was very low key compared to more recent ones. It wasn't marketed particularly strongly outside the area and I found details of it on the Durham Council website. It was fantastic and consisted of various installations hanging from the bridges and two brilliant installations on Elvet Bridge one of which was the Calcutta lights.
and yes, they had glow sticks :)
The light festival was held again in Durham in November 2009 and by this time had become Lumiere. It was much more organised and publicised and the highlight was the display on the Cathedral. It was fantastic. I went two nights running and even enjoyed it in the torrential rain. Some of the other installations were good too but it was the Cathedral that stole the show (as it should).
In Newcastle on New Years Eve they hold a light parade which we have been to a couple of times - it has a real carnival atmosphere.
The next one we visited was in Cambridge for the Cambridge University 800 Years celebrations. This was in January 2010. The light display was projected on to Senate House and there was another on the back of Kings College. There was a science theme to some parts of the display. It was impressive (no walking on the grass mind!).
Illuminating York took place in September 2010 and York Minster was lit up with the Rose Window as the centre piece.
This year so far we have been to Illuminating York again which was centred on the Castle Museum. It was excellent and made the most of the building and had more of a technology feel to it than art. The sound was good and the space was good allowing hundreds of people to gather without feeling penned in or manoeuvred. I liked the parts when the light was exactly covering the windows and other individual parts of the building and also when it looked like the individual stones were falling apart.
Last week we went to Lumiere at Durham. It was very busy and Durham is a difficult city for large crowds as it has narrow streets. I'm not sure whether the 'one way system' for pedestrians helped or hindered - everyone was very good natured and although we had to wait to get up to Palace Green, when we got there there was loads of room. I think people would have been sensible if left to their own route. It would be good to have it on for a longer - maybe a week. The 'show' on the Cathedral was the same as last time - Lindisfarne Gospels - it was very good.
The best bits were in the Cathedral itself and in the cloisters and gardens leading to South Bailey. In the Cathedral were hundreds of lit up vests - yes, it sounds weird but it was enthralling. In the cloisters was a big ball of fire and then in the gardens lots of fire and braziers - it was amazing. You could walk right up to the fire in buckets and pots. It made you think of raw energy mixed with cosiness of an open fire.
The best part was definitely walking down South Bailey to the river - this is one of my favourite parts of the City, in fact one of my favourite parts of the world. There were figures floating in the air.
Durham Lumiere was brilliant and hopefully it will be on again next year or in two years time.
One thought that I had both at Durham and York was - is it 'better' to have a fantastic light festival which is instant and transient, a moment in time, or a building such as the Minster or Cathedral that are there for thousands of years and awe inspiring? If I had to choose I would choose the latter - but luckily we've got both.