Excitement is building as organisers prepare to reveal the 'biggest programme of events yet' as the ever-popular Lumiere light festival returns to the region.

Thousands of people are expected to see the biennial nocturnal art show when it opens to the public in Durham City and Bishop Auckland on Thursday.

It is on until Sunday and from 4.30pm to 11pm each night, visitors experience illuminated installations on streets, bridges, buildings and the river.

The Northern Echo: 'Constellations', Studio Joanie Lemercier ©, Josephine Brueder'Constellations', Studio Joanie Lemercier ©, Josephine Brueder (Image: Josephine Brueder)

They will be positioned in the bustling Market Place, at Durham Cathedral’s UNESCO World Heritage site, the historic Bishop Auckland town centre and at the prestigious Durham University campus.

Helen Marriage, artistic director of Artichoke, the producers of Lumiere, said: “Artichoke is always determined to reimagine and reinvent the familiar, and this year’s Lumiere is no exception.

“The programme is even more ambitious with the work of some of the world’s greatest contemporary artists finding its place amongst the beautiful architecture of Lumiere’s home city.

“We’ve worked with the people of Durham for fifteen years and constantly marvel at the city’s willingness to facilitate the wildest imaginings of our cohort of artists.”

At the cathedral, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer will be bringing Topology to the nave, where the light of thousands of bulbs will be generated by the recording of visitors’ heartbeats.

In the Chapter House, Ai Weiwei will display his Illuminated Bottle Rack, inspired by Marcel Duchamp and featuring 61 antique chandeliers.

US artist, Adam Frelin, will be reproducing the cloister arches of the Cathedral in light form, illuminating the walkways of visitors as they pass through.

On Palace Green there is Spanish artist Javier Riera’s Liquid Geometry, a three-dimensional projected artwork intended to highlight the architectural qualities of the surrounding buildings, and which has been supported by Durham University.

Across the River Wear and on Church Street in St Oswald’s Churchyard, Martin Glover’s piece, Signed Light (2023), which was produced by Lumiere’s own small-scale commissioning scheme, BRILLIANT, encourages visitors to learn basic BSL through five signs which fingerspell ‘light’.

Anselm Reyle’s exhibit, Untitled, will be suspended underneath Framwellgate Bridge using spare tubing materials from industrial worksites to produce reflections in the river, intended to evoke a sense of nostalgia.

Chila Burman MBE, will also be bringing her trademark neon lightwork to Durham City’s Market Place in her piece, Hurts So Good, in which she explores female empowerment, Indian mythologies, and the legacies of colonial Britain.

The Northern Echo: ‘Body of Light’, Shuster Moseley.‘Body of Light’, Shuster Moseley. (Image: LUMIERE 2023)

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the spectacular four-day event and visitors are being advised to plan their journeys in advance.

The festival, commissioned by Durham County Council and produced by Artichoke, with support from Arts Council England, Durham University, County Durham Community Foundation and a host of other sponsors, will feature more than 40 installations that will illuminate the city.

For the first time, this year the programme also includes a satellite programme in Bishop Auckland, allowing more people to experience the Lumiere spectacle with four works that will interact with a façade, building or public space, transforming the heart of the town.

Cllr John Shuttleworth, the council’s Cabinet member for Rural Communities and Highways, said: “It is important that festival-goers plan their travel arrangements in advance as we are expecting large numbers of visitors during Lumiere.

“We would also advise anyone travelling through Durham City to view the scheduled road closures and travel changes, and consider how these, alongside increased traffic, may affect their journey.”

The Northern Echo: ‘PLANETOÏDS’, Pitaya. Fête des Lumières 2021.‘PLANETOÏDS’, Pitaya. Fête des Lumières 2021. (Image: Vincent Laganier)

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Extra Park and Ride spaces

Visitors are advised to use Durham City’s Park and Ride services, which will be extended throughout the festival. As well as running from existing sites at Belmont, Howlands and Sniperley, two additional services will be introduced.

These will be located at New College Durham, just outside of Durham City, and Annand House in Meadowfield, providing almost 3,000 extra spaces.

Regular services will run to and from each site into the city centre until 11.30pm each night, while the park and ride car parks will remain open around the clock.

Return tickets cost £2 per person or are free for concessionary pass holders and under-16s who are accompanied by an adult.

Free peak time tickets

Lumiere in Durham City runs from 4.30pm to 11pm each night and is free to attend. As in previous years, anyone wishing to enter the market place or peninsula area of the city between 4.30pm and 7.30pm will require a ticket.

Everyone can enjoy Lumiere across the city without a ticket after this time.

Tickets are not required to visit the installations in Bishop Auckland, which will be on show between 5pm and 10pm each night.

Access to Durham’s peninsula and some other areas of the city will be limited in the run up to the festival due to a number of road and footpath closures.

Bus services and offers

A new regionwide day saver ticket has also been launched. For £6.80, the ticket entitles holders to use unlimited bus travel across Tyne and Wear, County Durham and Northumberland and can be used on the Metro and Shields Ferry too.

Visitors are encouraged to leave the car at home and get the bus, with new saver tickets available.

Adult day tickets, offering unlimited bus travel in County Durham, can be purchased for £4. People aged 21 and under can purchase a day ticket for £3 or a single journey for just £1.

A new regionwide day saver ticket has also been launched. For £6.80, the ticket entitles holders to use unlimited bus travel across Tyne and Wear, County Durham and Northumberland and can be used on the Metro and Shields Ferry too.

Visitors travelling to the festival by public transport are advised to check with bus operators in advance, as some services and routes may change. The northbound bus stop on Church Street, immediately north of the New Inn traffic signals, will be suspended.

Temporary bus stops will be in place on the A690 across the (closed) junction with Walkergate, on the A177 South Road southbound opposite Bow School, and on the A177 South Road northbound, north of the access to Teaching and Learning Centre.


An additional taxi rank will be in operation in Durham City on the concourse of the new bus station, which is currently under construction.

The Northern Echo: ‘Diamond Garden’, Mick Stephenson.‘Diamond Garden’, Mick Stephenson. (Image: LUMIERE 2023)

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Stay up-to-date

For live travel updates during the festival, follow @DurhamCouncil on Facebook or Twitter or use the hashtag #LumiereDurham.

A full list of Park and Ride sites, road and footpath closures, changes to parking bays and other information is available here  

In the fourteen years since its debut in Durham, Lumiere has welcomed more than one million visitors.

The global event, which features artists from 15 different countries exhibiting their artwork completely free for the public, forms part of Durham County Council’s commitment to culture-led regeneration and cements Durham’s position as the ‘culture county’.

To view the full Lumiere programme, visit here 

The festival also has its own free app which can be downloaded in advance from the Apple Store or Google Play.