County Durham's famous light art biennial and the UK's largest light festival will make a triumphant return tonight (November 16) with artwork from over 14 countries on display.

Lumiere 2023 has finally arrived after eighteen months of planning and is set to brighten up Durham City and Bishop Auckland across four days from 4:30 to 11pm. 

From Durham Cathedral to Auckland Tower and Durham's Market Place, the night is to be transformed with eclectic installations from what has been said to be the biggest programme of events to date.

The Northern Echo: Ai Weiwei’s Illuminated Bottle Rack (2018).Ai Weiwei’s Illuminated Bottle Rack (2018). (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

Ahead of opening night, a preview of just some of the 40-plus attractions took place, giving locals a small taste of what is to come this year.

Director of Artichoke and Lumiere's artistic director Helen Marriage attended the preview, speaking of the multitude of artists who have descended on Durham to exhibit their work. 

The Northern Echo: US artist Adam Frelin, Inner Cloister (2023)US artist Adam Frelin, Inner Cloister (2023) (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

The Northern Echo: Lumiere 2023.

She said: “This years programme is an amazing mixture of community generated projects, where local people are working with national and international artists as well as a full international programme.

“This amounts to artists travelling from 14 different countries here to Lumiere.”

The Northern Echo: Director of Artichoke and Lumiere's artistic director Helen MarriageDirector of Artichoke and Lumiere's artistic director Helen Marriage (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

Ms Marriage then went on to discuss this year's loose theme, entitled 'transformations' as organisers hope the festival will help visitors look at the world differently.

She said: “Living in a place as beautiful as Durham, you can take things for granted as its familiar because you walk the streets of it every day.

“What our artists do is they look at Durham with fresh eyes, just for this brief four-day window they turn the city in to something magical.

The Northern Echo: Lumiere 2023.

“If you can physically transform a place, you can change the way people feel about it, who they share it with and what that experience is like.”

Outside the Cathedral on Palace Green, Spanish artist Javier Riera has created an immersive series of three-dimensional projections titled Liquid Geometry (2023).

The Northern Echo: Lumiere 2023.

Moving across the buildings in hypnotic patterns, the mesmerising shapes transform the look of the Cathedral, twirling into mandala-looking circular shapes.

On display inside the Cathedral’s 11th-century Chapter House is Ai Weiwei’s Illuminated Bottle Rack, made up of tens of antique chandeliers that reportedly arrived in Durham piece by piece in over 60 boxes.

The Northern Echo: Ai Weiwei’s Illuminated Bottle Rack (2018).Ai Weiwei’s Illuminated Bottle Rack (2018). (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

The 2018 work by the Chinese-born artist is making its UK premiere at this year's Lumiere.

Inside the Cathedral Nave, a unique pulse-influenced installation which sees hundreds of lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling will light up the historic site.

By placing their hands underneath a sensor, visitors heartbeats will sound inside the Nave's echoed chamber. 

The Northern Echo: Javier Riera’s Liquid Geometry.Javier Riera’s Liquid Geometry. (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

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Leader of Durham County Council Amanda Hopgood visited the Cathedral for a preview of just a few of the installations on Wednesday (November 15), summing up her reaction to Pulse Topology as simply “wow”.

She added: “Lumiere gives the county a great economic boost, as we are attracting artists and visitors to the region. But, there is another boost whereby we can feel proud of Durham.

“Lumiere is County Durham. It’s ours – you can feel proud of where you come from when you visit here. We know it’s beautiful, now everyone else can know too.”