The beauty of Lumiere 2021

After this year’s wonderful Lumiere festival, editors Melissa Rumbold and Hannah Ahmed review the magnificent installations and comment on the excited festivity the artworks brought to the city.

Melissa’s thoughts on the meaning behind the artwork

Lumiere was quite the novel experience; lights adorned the city, the market place was more packed than ever before and a Christmas hum hung in the air. What promised to be a magnificent display of artwork certainly delivered. Having heard from older students and marvelling at images from previous festivals online, this year’s Lumiere undoubtedly lived up to expectations.

The Cathedral installation was exquisite, with the beautiful artwork, ‘In Our Hearts Blind Hope’ from Palma Studios, accompanied by music from the university’s very own orchestra. The story of love, loss and flight was beautifully told through the magnificent projections of light and colour, captivating the audience. Certainly, when I witnessed the show for the first time, I was blown away by the gorgeous storytelling paired with such a moving music piece to accompany it. The exhibition was truly the highlight of this year’s Lumiere and is no doubt one that will be remembered for many years to come. The ‘Two For Joy’ piece of two pairs of magpies brought a charming simplicity to the festival, and called for a moment of reflection as the illuminated birds sat, peacefully perched on a lamppost. ‘City of Light, City of Stories’ by The Lantern Company was a brilliantly personified piece, telling the stories of local residents, young and old. Lanterns of familiar local buildings from the cathedral to the student union were included, alongside the London eye and the Taj Mahal, creating a wonderful microcosm of Durham and the world’s capitals.

Over in Claypath, a host of small fixtures added to the lively atmosphere of the festival. ‘Imminence’ by Novak was a breath-taking showcase of pollution and the destruction of our planet, projected onto the footpath which mesmerised all passers-by. ‘Halo’ nearby was a fun, interactive display of glowing rings paired with angelical sounds which illuminated when touched, providing for some wonderful picture opportunities. ‘Lampounette’ down by the Radisson Blu was a striking display of oversized lamps, peacefully changing colours with benches around their base. Constantly buzzing with excitement, the piece never saw a dull moment as tourists perched on the benches and stood, staring at the magnificent installation. ‘Drop Scene’ under the bridge was also a fascinating display of colourful circles, perfect for album cover-like photos.

As a student at St Mary’s College, news that Mary’s was hosting one of the installations this year was extremely exciting. Jim Campbell’s ‘Scattered Light’ featured hundreds of hanging LED bulbs, programmed to create the illusion of shadowy figures moving across the 3D matrix structure. The beautiful simplicity, yet fleeting storytelling made the artwork one of my personal favourites and a wonderful piece for Mary’s to host. Nearby, ‘Chronos’ projected onto the science site buildings told a magnificent story of creation and the universe, with a breath-taking display of colour, light and music.

Lumiere was a brilliant four-day festival which brought a festive hum to the city, providing a beautifully colourful break in the term. The memories created and photos captured from the event will certainly make the weekend one to remember.

Hannah’s reflections on the beauty of the festival

After a long two years of Covid and lockdowns, Lumiere brought the shine to Durham in the last few weeks of November, leaving all those who were lucky enough to get a ticket with a joyful way to end the term, and a wonderful way to welcome Christmas into Durham.

Known as the largest light festival in the U.K, and inspired by the Fête des lumières in Lyon, Lumiere rolls around every two years, bathing Durham in wonderous light creations for three days at the end of November. 

As a first year myself, this year’s glitter and glamour that Lumiere brought to Durham was something of a novelty. Having heard stories of years gone by, with tales of fabulous light displays, this year’s light shows were nothing short of spectacular.

Drawing visitors from all over the world, I can safely say bearing the cold Durham air to take in all the amazing displays was worth it. From the beautiful lantern feature to the fantastic projections broadcast over the cathedral, there is no doubt that Lumiere left a lasting impression on all that visited Durham this year. My personal favourite of the night had to be the wall of lights at St Mary’s College, which made for a stunning picture at night – for all the Instagram addicts out there, the glitz of this feature was definitely worth it! 

As well as the artistic light features brought to Durham during the festival, the hustle and bustle of Durham in the run up to Christmas, as Durham welcomed thousands of visitors from all over the U.K for Lumiere, filled the usually student lined streets with new faces and laughter. From student filled to family filled, the bustling streets brought a refreshing side to Durham, and admittedly began to bring the Christmas spirit. 

Looking into the future, with Lumiere now over, and looking ahead to the next time Durham is filled with these wonderful light attractions, I (and many first years) can wholly say that it is an event we’ll be certainly looking forward to, as Durham is lit up once more in two years’ time. 

Overall, Lumiere this year has provided a fantastic way to explore Durham and has been a brilliant part of my first term at Durham University. The excitement created through the festival has undoubtedly brought smiles to both undergraduates and postgraduates alike, providing some elation after a term of hard work and busy days.

Featured image: Melissa Rumbold

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