LUMIERE is set to return to light up Durham for the seventh time next year, in what is hoped will be a post-Covid celebration.

The UK’s largest and most successful light festival is to return to the city’s events calendar, offering promise of brighter times ahead following the misery of coronavirus in 2020.

Durham County Council and festival producer Artichoke plan to stage the popular biennial event from Thursday to Sunday, November 18 to 21, in 2021.

As ever, it will feature works by local, national and international light artists to illuminate the city.

The council hopes the news will lift people’s spirits, while also highlighting its ongoing commitment to championing cultural investment and the economic and social benefits it brings.

Tuesday’s announcement precedes a new online photography exhibition, created by Artichoke, to mark a year until the free light festival’s return.

Available at www.lumiere-festival.com, from Wednesday November 18, the exhibition will feature photographs of the people in the background who make Lumiere happen, showing a side to the event not usually visible to the public.

It also comes ahead of the presentation of a report evaluating the success of last year’s festival to the council’s cabinet next week.

Councillors will hear that the landmark 10th anniversary edition of the festival boosted the economy by an estimated £11.m, creating unforgettable experiences for residents and visitors.

While extreme wet and windy weather conditions affected the 2019 attendance numbers, turnout was still high, at about 165,000 visitors.

This included the one millionth visitor since the launch of Lumiere, in 2009.

Feedback from visitors was once again positive, with 87-per cent of those surveyed rating the festival as either “good”, or “very good” and 96pc stating it was good for the county’s image.

The aim is for next year’s festival to be equally inspiring, with Artichoke planning what is billed as, “a spectacular programme of artworks and installations.”

Highly experienced in producing outdoor events, the arts charity will make sure appropriate measures are in place to ensure audiences can enjoy the festival safely in accordance with any coronavirus guidelines in place in November next year.

Council leader, Simon Henig, said: “This year has been incredibly difficult for people in County Durham and across the world.

“The impact of coronavirus on our communities has been profound and I think we are all in need of something to look forward to at the moment.

“By announcing Lumiere’s return next year, we hope to spread a message of hope and show there is light at the end of the tunnel in these difficult times.

“As the evaluation of last year’s festival demonstrates, Lumiere also provides a significant boost to our economy, as well as supporting artists and creative businesses from the UK and beyond.

“The most complete recent figures show creative industries contributed more than £11 billion to the UK economy in 2018 and we expect the arts will play a crucial role in our region’s recovery from the pandemic.

“Lumiere will be a major part of that and I’m delighted to announce its return.”

Community outreach is an important part of what makes Lumiere so special.

Since 2009, more than 10,000 local people, including thousands of schoolchildren, have benefited from the festival’s learning and participation programmes, as well as the many volunteering opportunities on offer.

Last year boasted the biggest community outreach programme to date, with more than 2,000 people of all ages getting involved, learning new skills and having a great time in the process.

The new online exhibition, created by photographer Matthew Andrews, is inspired by activities such as these, along with the work that goes on behind the scenes to bring the installations to life.

It is described as, “a celebration of everyone who contributes to Lumiere.”

Artichoke director, Helen Marriage, said: “People are at the heart of the festival.

“The artists, volunteers, production crew and of course, the amazing audience are as much a part of the magic as the artworks themselves.

“There’s no denying the impact that Covid-19 continues to have in the North-East and across the UK.

“The return of Lumiere is a look ahead to brighter times, and the festival will be as uplifting and full of wonder as ever.”

The exhibition can be viewed via www.lumiere-festival.com, on which readers can subscribe for festival updates.

Lumiere is commissioned and partly funded by Durham County Council, with support from Arts Council England and a host of funders and supporters.

Fundraising for the 2021 edition is well underway.

Artichoke’s development director, Sarah Coop, outlines how support can be given via sarah.coop@artichoke.uk.com.

The council’s cabinet will be asked to note the evaluation report and the initial plans for Lumiere 2021 when it meets, "virtually", on Wednesday November 18, at 9.30am.

Members of the public can view the meeting on the council’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/DurhamCouncil.