Durham becomes a gallery: introducing the Lumiere Festival

Polly Checkland Harding

Durham’s celebration of light transforms the city into a gallery.

Over the past decade, there has been a notable rise in immersive arts experiences: from interactive theatre to themed dining, creative companies are increasingly seeking to bring their audience into the performance. Yet city-wide installations on the scale of say, Liverpool’s 2012 Sea Odyssey, remain relatively unusual. This is in part due to the huge organisation that such art events demand, but it’s a gap in the market that ambitious arts company Artichoke is unafraid to fill. This is, for instance, the company responsible for manoeuvring the 37 tonne, mechanical spider known as La Machine through Liverpool during its year as Capital of Culture. And this year, Artichoke has again been commissioned by Durham city council to curate the third Lumiere Festival, a luminous, nocturnal art trail that takes place over four nights in November.

The chance to see a phone booth fish tank, fibre-optic dresses & 3D elephant

One appeal of Lumiere is that visitors are granted their own creative power: with nearly thirty different light related works scattered around Durham, locals and out-of-towners alike have the chance to choose their own route. Go along and you will have the opportunity to see Benedetto Bufalino and Benoit Deseille’s phone booth fish tank, outsized, fibre-optic dresses by Taegon Kim, and Top’là Design’s 3D projection of an elephant. All the exhibit locations can be found on the website’s interactive programme map, which also displays places to eat, drink and stay along with parking and access information. Even here, visitors can choose options to suit them.

“This year’s Lumiere Durham programme will combine the high octane excitement of pieces such as Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Solar Equation, a giant maquette of the sun 100 million times smaller than the real thing, with moments of quiet contemplation,” says Helen Marriage, Lumiere’s Artistic Director. “Lumiere sets out to amaze, delight and stop people in their tracks.” With an estimated revenue of £5.8 million generated to date, Lumiere’s impact extends far beyond a short-term, visual reinvention of a city. Exhibits such as Maro Avrabou and Dimitri Xenakis’ Greenhouse Effect, for which cars have been filled with brightly lit artificial plants, for example, highlight the damaging effect of the vehicle on the environment and thus seeks to influence the values that visitors walk away with.

Lumiere makes the familiar unfamiliar and asks us to question our relationship to everyday objects and places. Attend the festival this year to experience the illuminating effects that immersive art can have.

Culture Guides

Cinema

David Bowie, Japanese classics and some early spooky screenings all feature in this month’s cinema guide.

Exhibitions

Welcome the autumnal season with all of the art goodness that it brings – there are so many brand new exhibitions to see!

Families

As we say bye to the summer holidays and begin to welcome in the cooler months, Manchester’s events and activities continue to bring joy and fun to families.

Kamila Shamsie. Photo Alex von Tunzelman

Literature

There are plenty of online readings and live launches as Manchester and the North welcomes some great writers with book festival season getting underway, and there are loads of new spoken word nights and open mics to check out…

Music

Autumn’s a fine old time for gigs in Manchester and the North. From otherworldly folk to life-affirming soul, here are our top picks for October onwards.

Theatre in Manchester and the North

Theatre

As the new theatre season gets ready to launch, we champion some of the star performances happening over the next few months.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester and the north.

Food and Drink

Explore the best restaurants and bars in Manchester and the North as we head into autumn.

Tours and Activities

Every season change is an excuse to try something new, and when it comes to tours and activities, autumn delivers!