Our Moon watched over Durham for the duration of the Lumiere Festival. Rachel Conner talks to the artist behind it

VISIBLE from the city’s highest spot, a glowing moon has welcomed people to Durham’s Lumiere over the last two nights.

Not just a moon, but the face of the people of Durham – created as part of a community project to get people involved in the popular light festival.

A baby on the first night, it’s growing older each day, tonight due to morph into middle-age, tomorrow reaching the latter stages of its life.

Resembling a childlike drawing, “Our Moon”, projected onto the side of Durham Castle, has its own face, created using complex digital processes collating information from a series of photos and recordings of about 80 people from the city.

Hannah Fox, the artist behind the installation, says: “The idea is that the moon is watching over the festival for the duration, maybe a little bit like a grandmother in the corner.

“I really wanted to create an image that was familiar and something that is owned by everyone and means something to everyone, across different generations and genders and cultures.

“It’s a bit like a digital puppet. I created something natural that doesn’t have any life but how it looks and moves is entirely a Durham thing.

“I think this piece is both really simple and very complicated.”

PERHAPS not the flashiest of installations, it hovers above the city, visible near and far.

It was created with help from about 80 people who spent two days with the artist and digital “wizard” Jason Threlfall to come up with the data used in the final project.

“We invited people to come and sit in front of the camera and we photographed them about 20 times so we could get a map of their faces and the way they moved," says Hannah.

“It’s almost like getting a set of prints for how that person looks and moves and that was a library for that person. I was talking to them and telling stories because we needed people to move in a natural way so they were laughing and frowning and squinting.

“What we ended up with was a massive collection of images of how these 80 people looked and moved. That digital information was put in four groups so we had children, young adults of around 15 and up, adults and elders of about 65 and above and the information from each group was used to create its own moon.”

ON Thursday, a moon created using the images of the children involved was projected, followed by an “adolescent moon” on Friday. An adult one, representing maturity, will grace the wall of the castle tonight, and an elderly moon will represent wisdom for the final day on Sunday.

“It doesn’t speak or tell any kind of story but it twitches, and blinks and smiles. People won’t be able to look at it and say ‘oh, that’s my nana’ but it’s not about that.

“We see photos and images of ourselves all the time. I wanted to move around that. It’s not about selfie spotting, it’s very much about the collective and about what we have made together. It’s a collective and it’s specific to Durham. For me, that was a really important aspect. The whole process was really nice.”

Hannah adds: “I like to do things that respond to a time and a place and the people who are there. I love seeing the work develop through working with local people.”

The Cumbrian-based artist, who also works in theatre and puppetry, has also taken part in other light festivals, including LightPool, held in Blackpool, and one in Dumfries.

This year’s festival is a bit of a family affair.

Her brother Dan Fox is behind another installation “Shimmer”, located on Prebends Bridge, which uses cymbals to create a soundscape to accompany the lights.

Meanwhile, her artist parents John and Sue were taking part in the conference this week.

Hannah says: “I’m glad to be part of something like Lumiere because there’s also so much happening. It’s really good for me to have also had that really interesting process with local people.

“I’m thrilled to have such a good site in Durham – it’s a joy really.”