An interview with Development Coordinator, Phoebe Light

Posted 05/05/2021

This week we spoke to Phoebe, our Development Coordinator, to gain an insight into the value of fundraising and our new Lumiere Business Club.

Tell us a bit about your role and how you came to start working for Artichoke and Lumiere.

I originally joined Artichoke as part of the Administration team three years ago and after a year moved into Development to focus on fundraising. Artichoke’s projects are almost all free to attend and fundraising is essential to make it possible to produce amazing events like Lumiere.

As a Development Coordinator I work with businesses that want to support Lumiere, including managing our new Lumiere Business Club. The Business Club is a new initiative for this year’s festival that allows smaller companies to support the festival financially and gain some great benefits in return.


What has been your most memorable moment so far working on Lumiere?

There have been so many memorable moments! After all the work that goes into making it happen, it feels quite surreal to see the artworks you’ve been talking about for so long come to life. Last year was the 10th anniversary and  we brought back some old favourites from previous editions of Lumiere, like Jacques Rival’s I Love Durham. Seeing that artwork installed in the Market Place before it was switched on was pretty special. I used to live in Durham and I’d seen I Love Durham for the first time in 2011. Seeing it again working as part of the Artichoke team was really exciting.


Seeing people enjoying public art and taking part is amazing. Just walking through Durham and watching people playing on musical see-saws (Wave-Field Variation H), holding up shapes to create a kaleidoscopic projection on the back of Gala theatre (Human Tiles), and engaging with the art everywhere is magical. The installations at Lumiere 2019 were really playful and it’s the public interacting with the art that really makes it all come alive.


Have you learned any important lessons learned from your experience working on Lumiere? 

Lumiere is such a huge project and everybody in the team pulls together to make it happen. You really see how much everyone wants it to be a success and how brilliant all your colleagues are!


Do you have a favourite Lumiere 2019 artwork?

I think this has got to be Mysticète by Catherine Garret and Top’la Design, which projected a whale on a water screen in a dark stretch of the river. It was a returning artwork for the 10th anniversary edition of Lumiere and I can see why it’s such an audience favourite. The projection was beautiful and eerie and had amazing sound effects as the whale splashed in and out of the river. With the light and sound together, it was like a portal to another world had opened up in the River Wear.


Is there anything you know from working behind-the-scenes that you think would surprise someone in the audience?

There is so much going on behind the scenes at Lumiere. In Development, you really see how ambitious a project like Lumiere is. Transforming the city for four nights is a huge operation. At Artichoke, we’re all really passionate about creating art that is free for everyone, but this means that we don’t have ticket income to help pay for the festival, so our sponsors and other funders are completely essential. So many different businesses get behind Lumiere, supporting us in so many ways, from funding the festival through sponsorship, to donating supplies for the artworks or food and drinks for our fundraising events. We had over 100 supporters for Lumiere 2019 and the festival really couldn’t happen without them.


Were there any surprises for you?

 The whole office travels up from London for the festival and usually stays at the same hotel. I hadn’t really thought about how this would mean you see all your colleagues first thing every morning for breakfast! However, we’re all really busy and often scattered all over Durham doing different things for most of the rest of the day, so those breakfasts together really helped us stay connected.


What were some of the big challenges / intense moments you faced?

There is so much to do during the four nights of the festival itself, so looking back it is a bit of a blur. We’re in contact with the sponsors, making sure they’ve been able to see the artworks they support. We also put on a lot of fundraising events during the festival that are attended by businesses and organisations who want to support Lumiere. Planning and setting up these events keeps us very busy. It can be a real challenge co-ordinating within the team when everybody is out at different venues, or on site. Sometimes you do have to run across to the other side of Durham to help each other out.


What was the most impressive or unexpected transformation of a location in Durham at Lumiere 2019?

I think for me this was Blue Skies by Penelope Payne, one of our 2019 BRILLIANT artists. This artwork was installed on the underside of Milburngate Bridge and it created the illusion of a  window into a summery blue sky – totally unexpected in a dark underpass on a winter’s night.


What are you most looking forward to for this year’s Lumiere?

Seeing all the beautiful installations we’re planning for 2021. It’s going to be fantastic. I am also really looking forward to being back in Durham. I grew up in Durham, but I live in London now so working on Lumiere always makes me nostalgic.


What do you enjoy most about working in Development?

 Every business we talk to is different and has their own set of priorities and reasons to sponsor the festival, so every partnership is different. Working in Development is a lot more creative than you might think. You’re always looking for interesting new ways to partner with different organisations and help them make the most of their sponsorships.

It’s been particularly great setting up the Lumiere Business Club this year. The last year has been a challenge for a lot of businesses, but the support for Lumiere in Durham is amazing. It’s so encouraging talking to small businesses that want to help bring the festival back to Durham this November.


Why do you think public art is important?

Public art is for everyone. It’s not tucked away in a gallery and you don’t need to pay or already know about art to see it and experience it. I love how it can transform a familiar place and make you look at somewhere you see every day in a completely new light.