A SPECTACULAR festival of light is returning to the region and the Northern Echo has had a sneak peak at some of the key attractions set to brighten up our lives.

Tens of thousands of visitors are due after darkness falls in Durham on Thursday and organisers have been testing the artworks to make sure everything is ready to glow.

The historic city’s cobbled streets are set to be packed once Lumiere, the brightest biennial event on the region’s cultural calendar, gets underway.

The Northern Echo:

In Our Hearts Blind Hope at Durham Cathedral 

Artists from around the world have supplied exciting new installations and civic leaders claim the seventh Lumiere is a shining example of why County Durham should be crowned City of Culture in 2025.

Over 150,000 people have registered to attend the festival over four days, the equivalent to the average crowd at a premier league football match each night.

Armed police will be on patrol as part of increased security measures to keep crowds safe in the wake of the attempted terror attack on Remembrance Sunday.

Read more: Armed police and 'hostile vehicle' barriers part of anti-terror measures at Lumiere in Durham

The turbulent impact of Covid over the past 18 months is addressed in several works, while the overarching issue of climate change and its environmental impact are huge influences on Lumiere artists this year.

The programme also addresses urgent questions of inclusivity and diversity, through the range of artists represented and the work they have made.

Artichoke, the creative force behind Lumiere, has said it is marking the return to live events by presenting its most ambitious and far-reaching edition of yet.

The Northern Echo:

Article 12 on Silver Street. Chloe Brown, 14, from Durham Federation School who created the work

Helen Marriage, director of Artichoke, said: “Each time we produce Lumiere in Durham I am amazed at the wonderful collaboration with our commissioners Durham County Council, and the sense of ownership by the local community. “Everyone I’ve come across here has been so proud and excited that we are back - against all the odds.

“This year’s Lumiere will be even more special, and a celebration of sorts.

“It is a moment for people to come out and enjoy being together again.”

Read more: Installations at Lumiere in Durham - and where to find them

Highlights include a newly-commissioned work with Durham University, New Writing North and leading international poets, whose illuminated words will be projected onto Durham Castle; a video-mapped journey from reflection to celebration on Durham Cathedral’s facade; and Lumiere’s first online interactive artwork that allows anyone to take part from wherever they are.

The Northern Echo:

Castle of Light at Raby Castle 

For the first time, coinciding with a county-wide UK City of Culture bid, Lumiere artworks will also six light up well-known landmarks of County Durham.

Marks in the Landscape will see the offer a different perspective on Finchale Priory, Penshaw Monument, Raby Castle, Ushaw Historic House and Gardens, Peterlee and Seaham Marina.

Ms Marriage said: “Lumiere continues to grow deep roots.

“For the first time, a brand-new programme of major installations is taking the festival out across County Durham, and further embedding a countywide participation programme that has involved thousands of local residents and young people in Lumiere projects over the last decade.

“In 2021 alone, Lumiere has worked with 685 individuals including mental health service users, veterans and young carers, and 25 schools across five learning projects.

“As ever, it is the artists that sit at the heart of Lumiere with their ability to transform the everyday and to reflect the world back to us in new ways.

“In this Lumiere programme, they bring magic and escapism as well as reflections on pressing issues and messages of hope for a different future.”

The Northern Echo:

City of Light, City of Stories

Lumiere is open each night between 4.30pm and 11pm in Durham City, and 10pm across the county.

The festival is free to attend and 29 of the 39 installations are always accessible without a ticket.

In a change from previous years, the controlled city centre area of Lumiere will be ticketed for the entirety of the festival opening times every night.

This is to manage audience numbers as part of measures in place to offer a Covid secure experience.

Armed police will be on patrol and although the festival is pedestrianised, hostile vehicle mitigation measures, or steel and concrete barriers, have been installed to prevent potential attackers using a car as a weapon.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the four-day festival, and the UK terror alert level has been raised to ‘severe’ after a suicide bomber died during a failed plot in Liverpool at the weekend.

Security stewards are being deployed will carry out bag checks and body searches at the ticket entry points.

Visitors planning to go to Lumiere are encouraged to leave a little extra time due to security measures in place surrounding the festival.

To minimise queueing time, visitors are asked to think carefully about what they bring with them and leave large bags and rucksacks at home.

The Northern Echo:

City of Light, City of Stories at The College 

A number of road closures are in place to protect the public and there will be a visible police presence – including both armed and unarmed officers - who will be on patrol both in Durham city centre and at the six other sites which form part of this year’s festival.

Superintendent Catherine Clarke, of Durham Constabulary, said: “As the public would expect from such as well-established event, the organisers of Lumiere have put in place a number of sensible security precautions to ensure visitors enjoy their night safely.

“Our officers will be on hand throughout the event, so come up and say hello when you see us as you enjoy the festival.”

Last month, The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirmed the County Durham is one of eight areas chosen from the 20 bidding locations and organisers now have until January to finalise the bid.

Click the video above for the sights and sounds of this year's Lumiere festival  

The overall winner will be declared in May, and huge events like Lumiere, Durham Brass Festival, Durham Book Festival and Durham Miners’ Gala are seen as key to the bid.

Councillor Amanda Hopgood, leader of Durham County Council, said: “After such a challenging period in our history, it’s wonderful to be celebrating the return of Lumiere to County Durham.

“As the UK’s leading light festival, Lumiere is a fantastic example of the creativity, innovation and can-do attitude we pride ourselves on in this county.

“And this year, it will shine even brighter, with six installations lighting up landmarks across the county and extending the economic benefits the festival brings at a crucial time.

“This countywide approach reflects the Durham 2025 campaign, which aims to secure the prestigious title of UK City of Culture 2025 for County Durham.”

The Northern Echo:

In Our Hearts Blind Hope at Durham Cathedral 

Cllr Hopgood said visitors to Lumiere would be able help strengthen the bid that, if successful, could attract tens of millions of pounds worth of capital investment to the area.

She said: “For the bid to be successful, we need your help to promote the vibrancy of our cultural offer and to demonstrate the widespread support that exists for the Durham 2025 campaign.

“If you are attending Lumiere this weekend, I hope you have a wonderful time and if you are posting pictures on social media, please use the #Durham2025 hashtag.

“Now is the time to celebrate what makes our county great.”

Read more: How much it costs to park in Belmont, Howlands and Sniperly for Durham Lumiere


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