It is 18 years since Sunderland last had illuminations, an annual event which, whilst smaller than the Blackpool equivalent, still involved miles of lights strung across the coast road, and a number of installations in Roker Park, including the floating tap that I referred to recently.

I was surprised then when Steve (who I photographed last weekend) emailed me to tell me that there were to be some illuminations once more this year, though confined to the park, a decision doubtless welcomed by some of the Seaburn residents who found themselves gridlocked every year.

With the official opening due for 7.00pm I made my way along the coast on foot, expecting that parking would be difficult, and though I was distracted by the combination of a setting sun to the west which bathed the eastern sky in a pink glow I just about made in in time.  Except that the park was closed until 7.25 to allow the gathering crowds an opportunity to “enjoy” the performances of a local school choir and a theatre group from York.  Eventually the gates were opened and we were led into the park by strange umbrella wielding fairies to see the wonders that were in store.It didn’t take long.

A few strings of coloured lights above the pathway, a small coloured fountain in a multi-coloured grotto, the bandstand strung with lights around its canopy, two static tableaux and a few lights in the trees.  Oh, and the ravine bridge, also picked out in white lighting (nothing special, but one of my favourite elements.)  Perhaps the famous tap would be the centrepiece?

I made my way to the boating lake to find a row of half a dozen coloured jets with accompanying music.  Quite pleasant, but not enough to float my boat.  Even in the short time I was there, one of the jets seemed to develop a mind of its own.  Doesn’t bode well!

Still Sue and Abbie seemed to be having fun when Sue asked me to take their picture.  Really don’t like shooting with on camera flash, but I didn’t have an extension cable, and this wasn’t really the time to start setting up pocket wizards.

A little later I decided to try without flash and positioned this couple under a light to give me a fighting chance.  Dragging the shutter to blur the passing crowds was a bigger risk, but I seem to have managed to hold the Canon steady enough, even at 1/25 of a second. Not perfect but I quite like it.

Cutting my losses I walked the 2 miles or so home along a brilliantly moonlit beach.  This was the real illumination event – I just wish I’d brought a tripod!  My favourite picture of the night was one of those that nearly made me late.  Perhaps I should have stuck with the bird in the hand.

*not quite a Jackson Browne song!

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