Enlighten Festival 2015: Electrifying Manchester

Holly Sharp
Illuminated green cranes

Enlighten, a festival of light and sound art, brings a chandelier of a thousand earrings, chromastrobic light installations and more to the city. Here’s our preview.

Leapfrogging off the success of their pilot in 2014, festival of light and sound art Enlighten is back for another year to celebrate UNESCO’s ‘Year of Light’. Yes, that’s it, more lights, at Christmas – hurrah! Thankfully, however, we’re being spared any more obnoxiously large LED Santas or sinister flickering reindeers, and those still reeling from the past fortnight of horrendous weather will also be delighted to read that the formerly al fresco festival has crossed the city from Piccadilly Gardens to the more sheltered climes of The Bridgewater Hall and in and around Manchester Central Library (though don’t ditch go ditching your brolly just yet).

The festival kicks off on the 10 December with the world premiere of The Bremen Town Musicians, a live, digital animation set to a specially commissioned score of Philip Pullman’s recent translation on the Brothers’ Grimm fairy tales. Over the following two days Enlighten (10-12 December) has a packed programme of 15 digital light-art installations, talks and performances.

A packed programme of 15 digital light-art installations, talks and performances.

Amongst them is our first pick at Central Library, British/Danish composer Kaj Duncan David presents Relay, an interaction of light bulbs and electronic music that promises a ‘trance-inducing’ experience. To get to Relay, you’ll need to make your way through Paul Friedlander’s Light Wave Power, a kinetic light installation dominating the entrance, immersing all who walk beneath it in ‘chromastrobic light’; in other words, light that changes colour faster than the naked eye can see –  yes, we Googled it.

The Chandelier of Lost Earrings, meanwhile, promises to do far more than what its brief outlined in the programme as ‘an elegant, glittering chandelier made entirely of donated earrings’. The project first sprouted from a modest scheme that saw hospital staff asking for donated single earrings, which caught the eye of the media and resulted in the donation of several thousand earrings over the course of one year. Perhaps most poignantly, donors were asked to volunteer earrings of which only one remained, and that held personal significance to the former wearer. The end result is set to be both an incredible spectacle and cause for quiet reflection on the myriad of untold stories contained within the glittering reflections.

Though only in its second year in Manchester, the team behind Enlighten has taken big steps in growing their programme. Two things are certain: this is the one lot of lights you’ll want to see turned on this Christmas – and Jason Manford sure as hell won’t be flicking the switches.

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