Enlighten Manchester: Dark nights? Not in Manchester, mate.

Susie Stubbs

A new light art festival pilots at Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens – we get a sneak preview of what is to come.

Well, this is a turn up for the books. An arts festival in Manchester that we knew nothing about until the press release hit our inbox. Said release was for Enlighten Manchester, a light art festival that, for four days only this December, sets out to light up Piccadilly Gardens. It brings artists from across the world to the city and puts large-scale projections and light-based artworks right into the middle of one of the city’s busiest and, some might say, unloveliest of public squares.

Said press release was light on facts, but one of its organisers, Heidrun Kelly, explained why. “We are still finalising the programmme,” she told us, “so not everything is fully confirmed.” What she could tell us, however, is that Enlighten Manchester is just a taster. “It’s a pilot for a much bigger festival in 2015, which will be held next December.” She also told us that there will be projections onto City Tower and onto Tadao Ando’s much maligned concrete wall, and possibly onto the big office block that houses the now empty Kro. The fountains may also get a new lease of life, courtesy of a sound and light work that appears as droplets of water. Confirmed artists include the Manchester based Elisa Artesero and Ulf Pedersen, one of the contributors to the hugely successful Durham Lumiere.

Projections will light up Piccadilly Tower & Tadao Ando’s much maligned concrete wall

Enlighten Manchester is the work of the art agency Curated Place, whose Andy Brydon cut his teeth at Urbis but who has – since it was turned into a football museum – turned his hand to a series of public art projects. Curated Place has created projects for the likes of the British Council, Liverpool Biennial and Visit Reykjavik – and it is Reykjavik, incidentally, that acted as the incubator for this Manchester event: this year’s Reykjavik Winter Light Festival was staged by the agency, while the two artists mentioned earlier, Elisa Artesero and Ulf Pedersen, both showed work as part of it.

Although details remain sketchy for now, the signs look good. Heidrun Kelly and Andy Byrdon are working alongside Manchester School of Art, the city council and Manchester Art Gallery to firm up this taster festival. So – will it light up the Piccadilly night and put that whopping great wheel next to it to shame? Or will it fizzle and fade, like a sparkler left out in the rain? Only one way to find out, folks. See you in the Gardens in December.

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