Bright lights, big city: Liverpool’s Light Night

Kevin Bourke

Fifty museums and galleries stage late-night events in a dizzying celebration of art and culture.

“Legacy” is a word that gets bandied about a fair bit these days, especially in the arts, and it’s one that Charlotte Corrie and Christina Grogan are entirely familiar with. The pair, who are behind Liverpool’s Light Night, are happy to admit that their event is a direct result of Liverpool‘s stint as Capital Of Culture in 2008. But that wasn’t the only inspiration for a yearly after-hours event that now features 50 museums and galleries staging 130 free events in a single evening. Light Night was also influenced by Paris’ annual Nuit Blanche (White Night), a night-time celebration of the arts when the whole centre of the City of Lights effectively becomes one big open-air gallery.

“Our name takes the idea of Paris’ event and combines it with the fact that the nights are getting lighter,” says Corrie. “It’s a city-wide event aimed at absolutely everybody, getting them to experience a huge number of world class museums, galleries and heritage sites. We want to change people’s perceptions about the city at night.” Getting off the ground just a year after 2008, Light Night is now well into its stride. “It goes almost without saying that we believe it’s our best so far, as well as our biggest,” says Corrie. “But we’ve also tried to make it easier to get around, with free buses running from 5.23pm until 10.40pm and a new app that will plan your trip for you.”

Candles light up a cathedral, LOOK/13 launches, the Tate turns 25, & that’s just for starters

This year’s highlights include such unique offerings as spectacular large-scale light projections at five outdoor locations; a candle-lit labyrinth at Liverpool Cathedral; and the chance to rediscover the newly refurbished Central Library as its doors open for the first time after a multi-million pound refit (it also hosts literary festival, In Other Words).  LOOK/13, the biennial International Photography Festival, launches, and includes an exhibition by world renowned photographer Rankin at the Walker Art Gallery – or you might prefer to dance along at the Pier Head’s Samba party whilst waving farewell to Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, the “most magnificent ocean liner ever built”. Close by, Tate Liverpool marks its 25th anniversary (blimey) and on the streets expect to find interactive theatre, a whole host of thought-provoking exhibitions, open studios taking part in Liverpool Art Month, a late night food and drink festival, craft bombing at the BBC, a Chinese arts showcase and urban architecture tours from the folk at RIBA.

Just as Light Night’s audience grows every year, so too do the number and variety of arts organisations taking part in this one-night celebration of Liverpool’s arts and culture. Newcomers this time around include Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, our friends at The Double Negative and the Bridewell Studios and Gallery. “LightNight is Liverpool coming together and presenting an extraordinary snapshot of our year-round cultural offer,” says Christina Grogan. “A high percentage of events may be one-offs, but the venues are here all the time – so it’s a reminder of what’s available,” agrees Corrie. “All this creativity on one night, it really is something special for any city in the world.”

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