LightNight 2015: Liverpool’s art scene is open all hours

Susie Stubbs
Biennial 48 Light Night. Photo Jason Roberts

Liverpool’s annual take on Museums at Night gets bigger ever year – we take our pick from the 100 or so events on in a single, long night.

It’s six years old and counting and LightNight, Liverpool’s one-night arts festival, is showing no signs of slowing down. Kicking off at 4pm on Friday 15 May, the festival is a dizzying mix of music, art, street performance, projections and exhibition launches in over fifty venues across the city. It is also, of course, Liverpool’s take on the annual Museums at Night celebrations and, in an act of cross-region collaboration, has been carefully timed to follow on from Manchester’s celebrations the night before – meaning the energetic among you can do both.

But back to Liverpool. The full LightNight programme will be released on 30 March, but early highlights include the addition of a few of the city’s golden oldies to the festival – the historic Cunard Building, the love-it-or-loathe-it Metropolitan Cathedral, whose circular shape will enclose the song of some twelve choirs and, on the waterfront, Merseyside Maritime Museum. Getting such venues on board is no mean feat. “As organisers we work year round, talking with venues months and sometimes years in advance,” says festival organiser, Christina Grogan. “Ultimately, we are lucky in Liverpool as everyone is up for working collaboratively.”

“You don’t know what could happen and I think that’s the fun of it”

Many of those taking part are keen to mine Liverpool’s past. The two waterfront buildings will, for example, focus on Liverpool’s shipping past, the Cunard Building with Time Liners, an installation in its old ticket office that tells the stories of those who worked on the transatlantic liners. The Maritime Museum, meanwhile, stages a night of music, art and dance that chimes with its exhibition on the doomed WWI passenger ship, Lusitania. Other highlights include a series of large-scale light projections and a chance to get behind the scenes at the university and discover some of its live research projects, from facial reconstruction technology to thermal imaging.

“Each year we open up another side of the city, things that people wouldn’t normally get access to or even know about,” says Grogan. “People enjoy the variety of LightNight – they could be in a peaceful exhibition one moment, caught up in a mass dance workshop the next, then screen printing in an artist’s studio or stumbling upon a staggering light installation. You don’t know what could happen and I think that’s the fun of it.”

Although LightNight has a mayfly-like duration it is plugged in to wider cultural happenings in the city. It forms the official launch for photography festival, LOOK/15, whose exhibitions at venues such as the Walker Art Gallery and Bluecoat preview that night. And it’s also part of a seven-week programme of events called One Magnificent City, which opens on LightNight but runs until July; highlights include a new “dazzle ship” by Sir Peter Blake, Sound City, a festival curated by Wayne Hemingway and the arrival in Liverpool of the “three queens” – three mega Cunard liners that appear together to mark Cunard’s 175th anniversary. More on all that soon, but for now put LightNight in your diary and start looking forward to a Liverpudlian summer of culture.

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