light up lancaster
Light Up Lancaster

Light Festivals in the North

Alice Hiley

As the colder and darker nights draw in, it can be tempting to settle into the sofa and hibernate away until summer returns. But you’d be missing out on some of the most exciting events in the North – light festivals.

You might associate festivals with summer and music, but these illuminated events are a celebration of the magic of the festive period and the beauty of the buildings all around us. Some are more traditional, marking the end of the harvest season, while others showcase cutting-edge light technology; you’ll see everything from handmade, candle-lit lanterns and puppets to large-scale LED and neon sculpture.

Towns become nighttime, open air galleries with something to discover around every corner. All sorts of communities get involved, from huge cities like Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds, to tiny villages like Saltaire, seaside towns like Blackpool and country estates like Saltwell Park. Shop fronts, parks and squares are transformed by stunning projections and brought to life by performers who breathe fire, dance or juggle glowing pins.

Liverpool’s River of Light, Durham’s Lumiere and Light Night Leeds will take your breath away with their mesmerising lasers and towering installations. At The Lanterns at Chester Zoo, meanwhile, you can get away from the hustle and bustle and relish the beauty of nature. At carnival-esque festivals like Blackburn Festival of Light, you can get lost in dancing, acrobatics, live bands, parades and games (and don’t forget the all-important food and drink), while at Manchester’s Corridor of Light you can enjoy not only a plethora of luminous installations but a packed programme of specially-commissioned performance works by acclaimed international, UK and Manchester-based artists.

All the festivals in our guide have one thing in common; they celebrate the talent of local and regional artists, and they want everyone attending to join in the fun. Whether you’re getting involved by crafting your own wicker lantern or interacting with touch-sensitive installations, get ready to be fully immersed in the experience.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Lightopia at Heaton Park

    Lightopia at Heaton Park
    Image courtesy of Heaton Park.

    Lightopia at Heaton Park, Manchester, 24 November 2022–2 January 2023, from £13.00 - Book now

    Bring in the New Year at Heaton Park’s award-winning lantern and light festival. The park’s unique exhibits combine art, music, lasers and light for a truly immersive experience.

    Lightopia sees the historic Heaton Hall covered in twinkling snow and visited by a certain man in red. You could easily lose yourself in the park’s many twisting trails, but make sure not to miss the Lakeside Water Show, a breathtaking projected display that reflects in the water’s shimmering surface.

    The animal-shaped lanterns on display across the park are made using traditional Chinese techniques for a colourful, visually striking experience. There are also huge musical instruments you can play by hopping along the keys; a magical trail of illuminated trees, and an astronomy-themed display which lights up the signs of the Zodiac. Lightopia is a celebration of all things sparkling, sure to get you in the festive spirit.

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