DOES the North-East want the Lumiere light festival to return in 2013?
That’s the question being asked of the region’s residents and businesses over the next three months, after council chiefs ordered a major review yesterday.
The second Lumiere festival attracted more than 150,000 people to Durham City over four nights last November.
It featured 35 installations, including massive images from the Lindisfarne Gospels being projected onto Durham Cathedral, a man-made Splash waterfall descending from Kingsgate Bridge and a giant snowdome over the Lord Londonderry statue.
Independent experts concluded that the event boosted the local economy by £4.3m – a return of nearly 1,000 per cent on the council’s initial £400,000 investment.
In a survey, about 82 per cent of visitors reported having an extremely positive experience.
“Yes, it cost us money to set the festival up. Surely that should be the role of a good council – to put money into events that more than pay back. There clearly was a major impact from it."Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council
However, many complained elsewhere of bad crowd management and were angry at having to wait for long periods in Durham Market Place.
Afterwards, Helen Marriage, Lumiere’s programmer, said there was a “huge question” over whether Durham wanted it to return as planned.
However, the firm later issued a statement declaring the event a “glowing success”.
Miller Research Evaluation Consulting said there was a “growing groundswell of opinion that a further light festival should be commissioned for 2013”.
They recommended some areas could be ticketed, the installations spread across a wider area and turned on earlier and better maps and signs be produced.
Yesterday, Durham County Council’s cabinet ordered consultation to discover whether there is backing for a third festival.
Council leader Simon Henig said: “I would urge businesses – and everyone – to let us know their views and thoughts.
“Yes, it cost us money to set the festival up. Surely that should be the role of a good council – to put money into events that more than pay back. There clearly was a major impact from it.
“It’s very important for people to use the next few weeks, so we can make the right decision for Durham when we return to this item in July.”
On the crowd problems, Coun Henig said he was aware there were issues, but lessons would be learned.