As we adjust to the darker evenings it’s time once again for the Durham Lumiere Festival.  Last here two years ago, it caused a lot of controversy last time because of the sheer numbers of people cramming themselves sardine-like onto the tiny peninsula that forms the heart of the city.  The time it took to fight through the crowds was frustrating, but the rewards in my view more than outweighed the distress.

Greenhouse Effect
Greenhouse Effect

The festival is biennial, and so this weekend the darkness was pushed away once more.  New rules required tickets to manage the throng, and some frustrating one way traffic controls meant that the walks from one installation to another weren’t always convenient.  Nevertheless with a little local knowledge I was able to see a good proportion of the pieces.  Sadly I was disappointed.  Yes there was beauty and creativity on display, but for me it was a pale imitation of what had gone before; unable to match the impact of the original.  There were some highlights of course, quite literally.

Platonic Spin
Platonic Spin

St Oswald‘s graveyard populated with neon bird boxes hit you not so much with the visuals, but the accompanying birdsong that filled the night.  For me there was a sense of peace generated by that.

A promising start that was developed as I reached the University Science Site.  Volunteers were having their irises scanned to be incorporated into a projected work on the side of the Bill Bryson Library as part of a punningly titled work “I”.


The orbs of the visual organs were echoed through one of my favourite works of he evening.  Solar Equation featured the world’s largest helium sphere, but with the pulsating and flaring surface of the sun projected onto it.  Constantly changing, this representation of the most important celestial body in our lives held the fascination.

Sadly it was downhill from here.  A market square devoid of anything to match the vast snow globe of the last festival, the beautiful projection onto the cathedral still impresses, but when you’ve seen it once…  Within the cathedral itself the work (M)ondes was beautiful and atmospheric, but the tiny fireflies created by projecting lines across a network of wires was too ethereal to capture photographically.  The cloisters featured shimmering fibre optic dresses, but compared to the flaming globe that preceded them there was no drama, and this continued beyond into the college buildings behind the city’s great edifice.

So did the public get a bum deal?

That’s an individual choice but for me when you have been touched by great beauty its difficult to replicate and perhaps you shouldn’t try.  Here are some of the images I shot the first time – you can form your own opinion.

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Still when you find your moon and star…



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