[THIS WEEK] For four nights Durham City’s peninsular and its surrounding streets were transformed by over thirty light installations. James Pallister reports from his home town
All police leave was cancelled, services drafted in from Easington and North Tyneside, and over four evenings 140,000 modern-day pilgrims passed through Durham City’s small peninsula for the second Durham Lumiere light festival.
For all the pomp and circumstance which goes with the Cathedral, Castle and University, and its UNESCO-protected sites Durham remains the market centre to the now beleaguered pit villages which orbit it. North Road, the route which many visitors to the city take, is a reminder of this: a scruffy bus station, a Poundland, a perennially rebranded nightclub and some money loan shops. The Lumiere transformed: a light show and ethereal drone emitting from the nearby illuminated railway viaduct.
The centrepiece was a giant son et lumiere projected onto the cathedral. The projection switched between bringing out the relief of the imposing structure, to flattening it, using it a canvas to show vignettes from the building’s history.
The highlight for me was Splash, by Canadian artist Peter Lewis which projected an illuminated mist fountain from Kingsgate Bridge, the concrete structure beloved by Ocve Arup as his favourite project.
Teenagers on the flat bottomed party boat the rince Bishop also enjoyed it– rushing out on deck to get themselves soaked as they passed through. With a festival spirit – a sort of reclaim the Streets meets Samhain – the Lumiere made the most of the many nooks and crannies of an already spectacular city, and showed that when it comes to arts festivals, short, sweet and intense is often the best.