Lumiere: Seeing Durham in a new light?

From the 16th to 19th of November, Lumiere took over and lit up Durham for a weekend of art, soundscapes and logistical nightmares. Visual Arts explores the written and photographic responses to the Festival, which attracted over 200,000 visitors to the floodlit city.


Walter Scott once said that he preferred the view of Durham across the Wear more than any view in Britain.

Lumiere has certainly made me agree. The lighting gave the trees an amorphous and surreal quality. An experience which recalled the Old English verse which describes ‘a most wondrous tree born aloft, wound round by light’.






After hearing many accounts and seeing many social media posts about the upcoming Lumiere light festival back in Durham, it was fair to say my expectations were high! I went twice to the festival, once on the Thursday to try and avoid the queues and again on the Saturday as I realized there was so much I missed the first time!

I found that the festival theme varied from location to location throughout Durham. The Market Square installation seemed to be more festive, while Prebend’s Bridge and the path down by the river gave off a more ominous feeling with their music and set up.

To be brutally honest my expectations were not met by the installation at the Cathedral. Previous years saw it lit up in the most fantastic colours, patterns and images, whereas this year it seemed bland in comparison. Although the concept of the lights flashing in time with the bells was clever and striking, I felt it could have been shown off on the Cathedral face as that is the focal point of the city.

Out of the masses of exhibitions scattered around town my favourite had to be the installation in St. Oswald’s Church. Although, slightly out of the town centre (where most of the lights were) it was definitely worth visiting. The church garden had a teaser display of beautiful lit up glass spheres in the trees leading up a lit path to the main church.

Once inside, the whole ceiling was occupied by hundreds of shards of coloured glass dangling down. The soft lighting in the building was bouncing off the glass and illuminating the walls, it made for a really beautiful show piece.

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