All eyes on Lumiere

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Lumiere is one of Durham’s cultural crowning glories. This year, the UK’s largest light festival returns with a particular resonance; Lumiere’s 10th anniversary will provide a stunning end to Durham’s Year of Culture. We spoke to Fenella Dawney, this year’s producer, about maintaining Lumiere’s appeal, co-ordinating both local and global perspectives, and what we
can expect from this decennial celebration of light and art.

Total audience of over three million


It is Fenella’s first time producing Lumiere. She has previously worked with Artichoke – the company behind Lumiere and other public art displays –
in a freelance capacity in 2017. Her enthusiasm to be part of Lumiere at such an integral point in the show’s history is obvious. When asked what the team have added to distinguish this year’s festivities from the others she states, “there’s a really exciting programme this year. We’re bringing back ten much-loved artworks and we’re also introducing a new permanent artwork to Durham.’

There will be a total of 37 artworks displayed, including some of Fenella’s
personal favourites: Adam Frelin’s ‘White Line’, ‘Keys of Light’ and ‘For The Birds’, as well as some new innovative pieces at the Cathedral. There will also be a number of interactive installations exhibited, alongside renowned works from both international and local artists such as Mr.Beam from the Netherlands, Javier Riera from Spain and NOVAK from Newcastle.

As Lumiere’s appeal continues to grow, with an audience of over three million, Fenella expresses her delight at the festival’s enduring power to attract and inspire. She attributes this to the uniquely immersive nature of the festival, pushing the idea that it allows you to explore the city, but also to re-interpret it. This seems particularly fitting given the increased emphasis on active audience participation, which we are seeing in the modern art world.

This phenomenon has largely been generated by the growth in popularity of immersive art installations such as Anya Hindmarch’s ‘Weave Project’, shown at London Fashion Week; but the effect of social media on audience response has proved integral in making this shift. Audience involvement is not something that Lumiere shies away from; Squidsoup’s ‘Wave’ combines modern-day technologies and lighting techniques to create an entirely novel, audience-based immersion.

“Both international and local artists”

Fenella also highlights the importance of Lumiere’s timing. With its colourful creativity and celebration of light, it would almost be natural to associate Lumiere with summer. However, for Fenella, the thing that really makes Lumiere “worth getting out of the house for” is the way that it encourages us to step outside in spite of the encroaching winter evenings.

Fenella stresses the importance of the festival as a unifying force. This is certainly true; Lumiere provides an opportunity for the university and town communities to come together in spaces which usually serve as backdrops to our busy lives. Fenella also expresses the importance of “the ability of light to inspire that childlike sense of wonder”, something which will be heightened by the sheer diversity of the pieces displayed this year.

On the challenges of producing Lumiere, Fenella expresses the excitement
of “making sure [the festival] is in sync with the life and activity of the city”, coordinating the city’s historicity with its rapid development, something she hopes is reflected in the range of pieces at this year’s show. The enticing appeal of works which “beckon you down alleyways” and the magical quality of literally lighting up a city indicate that this year will “quite possibly be the best Lumiere yet.”

Images via Artichoke Publicity

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