THOUSANDS more people flocked to see the spectacular Lumiere light festival last night, after organisers promised to step up crowd control.

Huge numbers of people filled Durham’s narrow streets as the four-night Lumiere extravaganza began on Thursday, and while visitors were wowed by the stunning art on display, many raised concerns about crowd congestion.

Several people posted criticisms on Lumiere’s website, questioning the police, stewards and crowd control measures.

The park-and-ride bus services were full by 6pm, leading to transport problems.

Extra buses were put on last night, running until 10pm.

Nicky Webb, from festival producers Artichoke, said crowd management plans had been reviewed during two hours of talks with the police and council officers.

Stewards will now wear high-visibility jackets, 20 extra stewards will be posted in key areas and the police and stewards will work together more, she said.

The 5pm road closures will also be more firmly enforced.

Ms Webb again urged visitors to leave pushchairs, bicycles and pets at home, asked people to observe one-way systems when they were active and, if possible, visit later in the evening. The 900 free parking spaces at County Hall were not all full on Thursday night, she added.

Ms Webb said: “We were very pleased with the response and the vast majority of people seemed to have a lovely time.

“It was very, very crowded at the beginning, but much less crowded after 8pm. All in all we’re delighted that so many people had such a lovely time.”

A police spokeswoman said the city centre was, as expected, very congested – particularly in the Market Place – but crowds settled down by about 9pm and the event passed safely, without any significant incidents or accidents.

Lumiere, which was commissioned by Durham County Council, continues tonight and tomorrow night.

There are artworks across the peninsula, Elvet, Walkergate and Wharton Park.

All 35 installations are free to view from 6pm to 11pm, except those at Durham Cathedral, which are closed during Evensong services.


See Monday's Northern Echo for a souvenir supplement