The UK’s largest light festival returns to light up the cold, dark streets of Durham this weekend and it promises to be bigger and better than ever. Lumiere Durham is back for it’s 10th anniversary with a record 37 installations bringing back some classics (remember the snow globe?) along with exciting new commissions.
It’s been eight years since my one and only trip to Lumiere Durham and, in that time, I’ve had many different homes and taken numerous flights across the world, but now I’m back and settled; it’s time to experience what my adopted hometown has to offer.
Gratefully, I was invited by This is Durham, Artichoke Trust and LNER to experience a preview of Lumiere Durham before opening to the public. Now, let’s just say, even if the weather isn’t great this weekend you are not going to be disappointed.
My Favourite Artworks of Lumiere Durham
There are many great installations at this years Lumiere Durham situated not just within the site but further afield including the University of Durham and the nearby Botanic Gardens. I didn’t manage to see all of them last night but my highlights would definitely be:
Quite a simple concept, thousands of light bulbs formed together in the shape of a cloud which can be interacted with at the pull of a cord. You’ll find this one in the Prince Bishops Shopping Centre.
I Love Durham
You can’t miss this one. This is probably the most iconic of the installations and originally appeared at Lumiere Durham back in 2011. A huge snow globe has been placed over the statue of the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry in the Market Place. Between the copious amounts of fake snow firing around the globe, you’ll see a neon sign stating ‘I Love Durham’ in various different colours.
Directly outside the new Odeon Luxe cinema on the Riverwalk, Wave features 500 circles of light seemingly floating in mid air. Each one makes random noises though I couldn’t work out if this was linked to walking nearby.
Probably the grandest piece of artwork. This is a shifting light display upon the facade of Durham Cathedral and is absolutely brilliant. Apparently, it’s interactive in that members of the public can manipulate parts of the light show.
I also loved seeing the River Wear engulfed in fog with the cathedral high above as well as the pink neon ladder hidden on Saddler Street.
- Wrap up – it’s freezing out there and you’re likely to be out and about for a good few hours.
- Download the Lumiere App – this has an interactive map for all of the installations or, alternatively, pay £2 for a programme.
- For the photographers out there, carefully think about lugging a large tripod around with you. I managed pretty well with the Fujifilm 16mm f/1.4 lens which let enough light in at most of artworks. For those longer exposures, I just used my small Manfrotto tripod that fits into your pocket. It’ll be very busy so you may not also have room to have a full tripod set up.
- Another photography tip, don’t stay at home if it rains. With all of the artificial lighting across Durham, this is the perfect opportunity to capture reflections in puddles and off the cobbled streets.
The light festival is running from 4:30pm to 11pm from 14th to 17th November though it will be very busy during peak hours. From 4:30pm to 7:30pm a free ticket system is in place to access the city centre. I believe these are all sold out so, if you don’t have a ticket, just head round a little later and hopefully it won’t be as busy.
Make sure you take advantage of the many the Park and Rides that have popped up all around the city. Even you fancy getting your walking boots on, why not park and walk all the way in? If you’re on the South of the city, this makes perfect sense as some of the artwork is situated on the walk in.
For more information, head across to the official Lumiere Durham website or, if you’ve got any burning questions, just drop me a comment below.
Staying a little longer?
You didn’t come all the way to Durham just to look at the lights and go home. You’ll especially want to make a night of it if you’ve spent some time just getting into the city itself. There’s plenty to do if you’re here for the weekend too. For the first time ever, I went on a tour of Durham Castle for just £5 which is essentially just a real-life Hogwarts. Imagine going to University and living here?
For food, look no further than Tango with great burgers and the option to smother your fries with pretty much everything from duck to cheesebomb sauce…Are these the best burgers in Durham? Probably, so don’t miss out. If it’s busy, Fat Hippo isn’t a bad shout either!
Check out these additional posts for some inspiration either involving physical exercise or drinking beer:
If you do manage to check out Lumiere Durham this weekend, let me know what you think below!