Last weekend our beloved city of London was transformed into a dazzling free four-day festival of lights, called “Lumiere London”.

Lumiere is part of light festival ‘Lighting Up the North’ which was first organised in Durham in 2009. After having been featured in several cities in the north such as Leeds, Blackpool, Lancaster, Gateshead and Manchester the light festival finally came to our capital.

The light installations themselves transformed London locations such as Oxford Circus, Westminster, Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square into sparkling sensations for the eye. In the midst of the January blues this colourful spectacular gave Londoners a reason to get out and about in London, and they did so in their droves; on Saturday 17th January the lights had to be extinguished due to overcrowding. Over 30 artists contributed to the festival, including Janet Echelman, Deepa Mann Kler and Benedetto Bufalino.

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We appreciate creativity at UK2, and we must say that the installations themselves were a great feat of engineering. Whether suspended in the air – hovering above an iconic place such as Piccadilly – or adorning an integral London building, the display turned our city into something truly magical. Even the trees looked like something out of a modern technological fairy tale; the body made of monochromatic light reminded of a holographic projection similar to those seen in a Star Trek movie.

Anticipating great crowds, major London streets were pedestrianised for the duration, resulting in a boost of trade according to creative company Artichoke who organised the event. Business owners confirmed their trade increased by more than 10% and the footfall in certain areas increased by 25% when compared to the same time of the previous year. The restaurant and bar industry reported the largest increase in trade, however, as visitors packed into local bars and restaurants for refreshments.

Karen Baines, marketing director at the Heart of London Business Alliance confirmed that the light festival has created a growth in business for some, highlighting the positive effect of pedestrianising central London. Baines now is looking to repeat and expand the festival, bringing it to more areas on London. She also would like to introduce more street festivals in our capital.  

Who is behind Lumiere? That would be creative company Artichoke, which was founded by designer Helen Marriage and photographer Nicky Webb. Marriage – a Harvard design school graduate – was awarded an MBE in the 2016 Honours List. Webb has created several high impact, effective campaigns which have greatly contributed to Artichokes success.

Their first ever event, Royal de Luxes The Sultans Elephant, took place in London in 2006. It started off with a crashed wooden rocket in the street when a float like vehicle appeared. Dangling from a metal hanger on the float, a larger than life avatar girl figurine began “walking” down the street lined with curious spectators. Simultaneously an enormous mechanical elephant, whose body was a self contained house, started parading across London spraying water from its gigantic trunk. David Lammy MP, minister for culture at the time gave a speech thanking Royal Deluxe for “reminding us that we can have street theatre. That we can smile that we can believe in magic. That we can believe in wonder. And that we can put on huge events like this”.

Artickoke Trusts aim “ is to work with artists to create extraordinary, large-scale events that appeal to the widest possible audience”. (artichoke.uk.com) They also believe that art should not be confined within galleries or exhibition areas but be celebrated in the outdoors; being streets, countryside or any public area for that matter. They are a charity so they rely on donations to enable them to bring these events to life.

You can check out some pictures of the event over on the Lumiere website.

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