Lumiere, one of the biggest events in the Durham calendar, has this year announced plans to introduce ‘theme-park style’ queues for visitors hoping to gain access to the city centre areas during the festival. Between Thursday 14 and Sunday 17 November from 4:30pm until 7:30pm there will be restricted access to the zone (which includes North and South Bailey and Silver Street) limited to those who have applied for the free tickets in advance, with ‘theme-park-style’ queues managing crowds after this time. Entrance will only be permitted via Elvet Bridge, Framwellgate Bridge and Claypath in what is apparently a response to the congestion caused when 150,000 people attended the displays in 2011. Those seeking to avoid the crowds are advised to attend after 9pm, or to visit the many displays that are located outside of the main city centre area.
‘Gold Passes’ will be on offer to residents of the city centre area, including those that live in colleges, and those that work in the zone. These offer fast-track entrance via all of the same roads as well as Kingsgate Bridge and Prebends Bridge and can be collected from the Gala Theatre when proof of residence is presented. However, it has not yet been announced whether there will be a different system put in place for students, including freshers still new to the city, to collect their passes via college, nor whether there will be measures to provide for those who still have to attend classes on the Bailey during these hours. Access to society events and meetings and popular student bars and clubs is also likely to be affected, although the organisers are in discussions about introducing a ‘Restaurant Pass’ for those who have a reservation.
At this stage it is impossible to judge the full impact that the event will have on the normal activities of Durham’s 16,000-strong student body, but it appears that the organisers, in conjunction with Durham County Council, have not considered the needs of the majority of the city centre’s most frequent visitors when drawing up their plans. It seems likely that there will be effects both social and academic due to the scale of the event and its early hour, with this meaning that November is likely to bring four days of inconvenience to students wherever they live within the city.