The origins of Lumiere
The first Lumiere took place in Durham in 2009. 22 light installations were dotted around the city in a diverse artistic programme including neon, projections and fire. Over 75,000 visitors experienced the magic of the first Lumiere for free, which was originally planned as a one-off event.
Durham University Botanic Gardens were transformed with 25 artworks for Power Plant, and at Durham Cathedral, crowds were treated to Crown of Light, the glorious son et lumiére by Ross Ashton, Robert Ziegler and John Del’Nero. The programme also featured a collaboration between prisoners at HMP Durham and artist Ron Haselden which resulted in Nine Men Drawing, a series of illuminated artworks in Crown Court Gardens.
Lumiere 2009 made a big impact and was the start of something that, with the support of Durham County Council, Durham University and other sponsors, has since become a free-to-attend, biennial event and a cultural highlight in the North East calendar.
The lasting impact of Lumiere
For each edition of Lumiere, Learning and Participation activities are integrated into the artistic programme, touching lives and leaving a legacy of skills and newfound creativity. Over the last ten years, our producers and artists have worked with over 12,000 local people and there are always plenty of opportunities for local people to play an important part in Lumiere.
In 2021, participants included schoolchildren, young carers, veterans, people with disabilities, and people with lived experience of mental health issues. They helped in the making of installations like Plastica Botanica and City of Light; a Lilliputian lantern village complete with miniature Cathedral and Ferris wheel.
Lumiere also invites anyone over the age of 18 to submit their brightest ideas for light artworks as part of the BRILLLIANT commissioning scheme. Those that are successful are supported in the production of the works which are exhibited as part of the artistic programme, alongside work by internationally-renowned artists. Other opportunities for participation include volunteering to help visitors have the best experience of Lumiere and a number of apprenticeships are available to those wanting to take the first steps to developing a career in events production.
Making the magic happen
Our aim is to make Durham appear to be transformed as if by magic, and visitors will notice little of the immense infrastructure needed to make it happen. Of course, staging a light art event of this complexity is a monumental task involving a huge team of producers, technicians, engineers, artists, volunteers and participants, not to mention a large amount of specialist kit. The Lumiere 2021 team included 37 artists, 8 riggers, 13 Projectionists, 28 crew, 400 volunteers and 685 community participants. The event infrastructure included 11 cabins, 6 welfare units, 1382 pieces of fencing, 11,000 Litres of eco diesel, 10 000m of cabling, 200m of cable ramp, and 280 radios.
Eco diesel is just one of the measures we are taking to minimise the impact of the event on the environment and make it as sustainable as possible. Artichoke is signed up to Vision: 2025, a network of over 500 outdoor events and businesses taking climate action towards net zero. In 2023, Lumiere will engage industry experts, A Greener Festival, to undertake a carbon impact assessment of the event and is committed to working collaboratively with Durham County Council and the local community to deliver a sustainable and environmentally-conscious event.
Lighting up London and Derry~Londonderry
Lumiere has also travelled to other cities in the UK. In 2013, Lumiere Derry~Londonderry provided the finale event for the first UK City of Culture celebrations. Huge audiences enjoyed a dazzling programme including Compagnie Carabosse’s Fire Garden in St Columb’s Park and Twice Upon A Time, which was a giant game of consequences video-mapped onto Ebrington Clocktower by Ocubo.
In January 2016 and 2018, Lumiere London took place in the capital, pedestrianising large parts of the West End including Oxford Street, Regents Street and Piccadilly and transforming Mayfair, King’s Cross, Waterloo and South Bank, and clocking up more than one million visits each time.
Susannah Clapp, The Guardian