Monday, 9 December 2013

Durham Lumière Festival 2013

I'm currently working some extra shifts for Christmas and it is difficult to keep posting regularly. I don't know how other bloggers manage to keep up so well. So, I'm a bit late with the post on Durham Lumière, which was at the end of November (14 -17 Nov.), but I made sure, that you would get the best pictures from it! Here you are, I hope you enjoy it.

Durham Lumière is an amazing event, organised by the outdoor event planner Artichoke, it occurs every two years. During the festival time, the city is transformed into a magical place using interesting lighting to illuminate Durham's buildings, streets and public spaces.

Durham Lumière 2011 had some impressive art works (the waterfall bridge, the monument that was transformed into a huge snowball globe, the heavenly installation inside the cathedral, the fire alchemy in the cloister garden), so the expectations were high. 

I have to admit that this year's Durham Lumière wasn't quite as impressive, but it did have some spectacular and magical installations.

My journey started in the marketplace. I was expecting something monumental as this is the city centre; I was left searching for a hidden treasure in this crowded place. I finally found it - a phone box, transformed into an aquarium, off the beaten path. 

Due to a large crowd, I waited patiently for my turn to view it up-close; the phone box had been turned into a lit aquarium with colourful swimming fish.  An exotic little world, a quirky living universe at the heart of Durham. 
Looking at it, made me dream of the crystal blue water on a tropical island. The goldfish reminded me of quirky images I've seen in movies - a girl bringing home a goldfish in a plastic back, which she had won at the funfair, or a lonesome little goldfish, swimming in one of those tiny, empty fish bowls.

The next thing that grabbed my attention, was some colourful street decoration which turned out (upon closer inspection) to be made of lots of plastic bags. It irritated me that something I would normaly associate with pollution, could create such a happy atmosphere. 
I continued to walk down the beautifully decorated Durham shopping mile, which lead me directly to an unconventional Christmas tree...

To see this beautiful Christmas tree was certainly a surprise. As far as I am aware the artist wanted to make us visitors aware of the pollution of our environment, but this was quite a different picture from the growing piles of rubbish away from our everyday view. It illuminated the place with colours of yellow, orange, blue, white and green. Even the children were fascinated by it, and were drawn back to have a closer look.

One of the highlights was the lightshow "Crown of Lights" at Durham cathedral itself. The cathedral is one of my favourite places, but seeing it illuminated in such bright and clear colours, was amazing and breathtaking. 
The light show retold the history of Christianity in the North East with images of the ancient book, the Lindisfarm Gospel. Images of the attacks and destruction of holy island by the Vikings, an all-exciting fire, and the re-building of the cloister were only some of the powerful images displayed on these ancient walls. No words, just music, and pictures.

If you would like to view a more vivid interpretation of how the Vikings attacked the holy island with the Lindisfarne priory, watch the television series "The Vikings" - S1E2, it's quite the eye opener.

Another pleasurable experience was at the sanctuary, several neon bird boxes were hidden in the trees at the old graveyard of St. Oswald church, accompanied by the soundtrack of bird calls. It seemed rather creepy to me, standing in the middle of some old stone tombs, and hearing the voices of ravens, but the sound began to turn into morning bird song and I felt reminded of spring. Strangely enough my body reacted with a tickling nose and several sneezes. It was definitely a magical place, where I would have loved to resided longer.

This installation showed a model of the sun on a more approachable scale. A huge helium balloon was flying in an open space between the university buildings, changing colour to simulate the turbulence of the sun's surface, accompanied by a growling background noise.
I took several pictures of the balloon itself and its changing surface, but it could not truly catch the atmosphere and do it justice. Finally I decided to take a picture of its mirror image in one of the university building windows. Maybe we are used to see the moon, looking outside the window, but certainly not a view of the sun in this size so close.

Like in a scene from Jurassic Park, where the protagonists could feel the Tyrannosaurus Rex approaching them by the rhythmic stamping of its heavy footsteps (depicted through ripples of water in a glass), you could hear the heavy footsteps of this elephant hundreds meter away.
The sight was mesmerizing. The elephant looked real and its movements were natural. It looked like it was trapped within a huge canvas, and made me wants to get closer and console him by feeding him some vegetables. I couldn't help but feel a sudden urge to visit a zoo. 

Just like last time, I was lucky to visit Durham Lumière twice. Once to check out the initial big attractions, and a second time to enjoy my favourite ones again. I hope that Artichoke and Durham Council will continue this successful partnership and I'm looking forward to Durham Lumiere 2015. 


  1. I'd also heard that the festival wasn't as great this year, but this is still great post and fab photos :)

    1. Thanks! :) 2011 was amazing, I guess it is difficult to top something so good. It was still a fun weekend and I enjoyed it much.


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