LewesLight, UK

Pic: James MacCauley

Taking place October 2016, the second LewesLight Festival built on the success of the previous year, expanding to include a broader team of designers from theatre / opera, music, architecture and art backgrounds, joining the architectural designers who took part in 2015. The festival also expanded its educational component to include STEM workshops in association with the University of Sussex and activities of an environmental focus with the South Down National Park and a local nature reserve. The latter to produce torch installations, an interactive sculpture, night walks and stargazing.

The main festival remained very much the same with a number of installations designed to investigate themes and narratives from local history and reinterpret buildings and spaces in an unexpected way. The installations ranged from prominent landmarks such as the Castle and Priory, through to houses and more prosaic features normally passed by with little thought. Each was intended to work alone or to provide a backdrop for guided historical walks. This year’s designers and artists were as follows: Graham Festenstein, Leora Honeyman, Maggie Lambert, Neil Marsh, the team from Nulty+ working with Karen Van Creveld, Pedro Pinto, Paul Pyant and Eleni Shiarlis.

The theme was: The darker side of Lewes Life, which investigated lesser known stories and historical events with sinister overtones, such as the story of the Lewes Rat – a tale of the body of a mummified rat that can be found in Ann of Cleves House.

LewesLight’s setting has a sensitivity and intimacy that is lost on many other festivals and as a design led event it is keen to retain this. Spectacle, big installations and big crowds are not in its DNA like in big art commission based events.

The festival still has a strong educational focus, not only in terms of promoting the town’s history and the environmental impact of lighting, but also in terms of lighting and urban design, the technical and engineering aspects of lighting and the creative aspects of design, art and photography. To this end it partners with the local Sussex Downs College where the festival is embedded in the Production Arts Course and features in Art and Design and Digital Arts courses, and also with the Lewes Youth Theatre. ‘‘We also work with local schools and community groups and hope to generate a collaboration with Brighton University for this year,’’ commented Graham Festenstein, Festival Director and Independent Lighting Designer. Expanding on the academic theme, the festival held a successful day-long conference discussing ideas around lighting in urban design and festivals, aimed at industry professionals and others with an interest in lighting.

‘‘We hope that LewesLight continues to grow, it still operates on a tiny budget and relies on time and effort provided by its organisers and supporters with a small contribution from the Town Council. In the long term we hope to generate sponsorship from local business, but in the current financial climate we have an uncertain future, however this will not be stopping us from pressing ahead with plans for October 2017,’’ concluded Festenstein.