MORE than £1m in Arts Council funding has been promised to bring a spectacular light festival back to the North-East twice over the next three years.

Lumiere 2013 attracted 175,000 people to the streets of Durham City over four nights last November and was worth at least £5m to the economy, but afterwards it was unclear whether the event would return.

Durham County Council cabinet member Neil Foster said the authority would stage something spectacular every two years but Lumiere’s future was dependent on funding.

Loading article content

However, the Arts Council has now pledged £1.245m to help stage the event in 2015 and 2017.

Although its announcement is no guarantee Lumiere will return, the council is expected to make its own commitment soon, paving the way for producers Artichoke to start seeking other funding and planning the programme.

Jane Tarr, the Arts Council’s director north, said Lumiere was the country’s leading light festival, artistically ambitious and attracted huge numbers of visitors.

“Lumiere has a really strong track record in attracting exciting international artists.

“It’s fantastic work creatively and 175,000 people came to see it last time from all parts of the country and all walks of life.”

Council leader Simon Henig added: “This is a huge vote of confidence in Lumiere, which has a proven track record in bringing very significant economic benefits to our county and the North-East.

“I would like to thank Arts Council England.”

The Arts Council funding represents a major step up for Lumiere.

Last year, the festival’s budget was round £1.4m, of which the council contributed £400,000 and the Arts Council £385,000.

Lumiere 2011, which attracted 150,000 visitors over four nights, cost around £1.5m, including £420,000 from the council and £150,000 from the Arts Council.

The 2011 event was criticised for overcrowding, but last year’s went much smoother, as organisers ticketed Durham’s peninsula at peak times.

Ms Tarr said the Arts Council’s early commitment for next year’s event would allow more time for planning, in terms of the programme and logistics.

Lumiere was first staged in Durham in 2009. Last year’s event was adapted to become the finale of Londonderry’s year as UK City of Culture 2013.