Lumiere, UK

1.8 London, Janet Echelman, Lumiere London 2016, produced by Artichoke.

Beginning in Durham and then moving on to London, Creative event company Artichoke pushed themselves to the limit by organising two Lumiere festivals within two months of each other.

Producers of extraordinary live events, Artichoke is one of the country’s leading creative companies and is a registered charity, funded by Arts Council England. Its previous projects include: Royal de Luxe’s The Sultan’s Elephant, which brought an estimated one million people onto the streets of London in 2006; La Machine’s 50- foot high mechanical spider for Liverpool’s Capital of Culture celebrations in 2008; Antony Gormley’s One & Other 100-day long invasion of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London in 2009; and Deborah Warner’s commission for the London 2012 Festival, Peace Camp, a nationwide celebration of landscape and poetry, which took place across eight separate sites around the UK.

Artichoke creates and produces Lumiere, the UK’s largest light festival, which has been staged in the medieval English city of Durham every two years since 2009; and in Derry~Londonderry in Northern Ireland as part of the celebrations for City of Culture 2013, commissioned by Culture Company 2013.

The Lumiere festival, first commissioned from Artichoke by Durham County Council, completed its fourth edition in the city last November 12-15. Featuring some of the world’s most eminent artists working with light in all its forms, in 2015 the Durham festival attracted 200,000 whilst it is estimated that the 2013 festival brought economic benefits to the area worth £5.8m.

Helen Marriage, Director of Artichoke said: “I was so excited to put this new Lumiere programme in front of Durham’s discerning audiences. This was the fourth time that we’ve brought Lumiere to Durham, and each time we’ve tried to innovate and bring new parts of this glorious city into the festival. Artists both local and international delight in the opportunities of working with such extraordinary architecture and landscape.”

Council Leader, Cllr Simon Henig said: “We enjoyed welcoming everyone to our beautiful city and seeing it in a whole new light. Only Artichoke could arrange a whale in the Wear and bring the history of the universe to life at Durham’s spectacular Cathedral.”

But that was nothing compared to the monumental task of organising London Lumiere a mere two months after the Durham event had taken place.

Taking place 14-17 January 2016, London’s first Lumiere light festival transformed the city’s streets and buildings with spectacular artworks. First estimates put the numbers of visitors at over 1 million attending the festival.

“The sheer size and scale of London made this a different proposition, as did the multiple agencies involved. But the ambition was the same. Leading international artists working with light engaged with the urban landscape and architecture to create a place where strange and wonderful things happen,’’ said Marriage.

Supported by the Mayor of London, Lumiere London turned King’s Cross and London’s West End, including Leicester Square, Piccadilly, Regent Street, St James’s and Carnaby into a magical pedestrian playground, encouraging Londoners and tourists to explore the heart of the capital and view it in a new light.

With founding support from Atom Bank, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Heart of London Business Alliance, London & Partners and King’s Cross, plus additional support from a host of partners and sponsors, including Westminster City Council, Lumiere London presented installations by 30 international artists, at some of the city’s most iconic locations.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “I am thrilled by the success of Lumiere London, which has brought a wonderful burst of imagination, colour and creativity to our city’s streets in the middle of cold, dark January. It could not have happened without the input and support of the many businesses and agencies who helped to make it happen. We have been astounded by the crowds, which exceeded all our expectations and brought a boost to the West End and King’s Cross and are delighted by the response, not just from Londoners, but visitors from around the world.’’

Marriage, concluded: “It’s been an unprecedented four nights for London and the turnout has been extraordinary. Thank you to all our partners who helped make this event possible. Over a million people came to experience something truly magical and unusual: this great world city turned into a temporary pedestrian playground. While the success of the festival did mean that contingency measures had to be put into place occasionally to help keep the crowds moving, the atmosphere has always been amazing. This festival has been about more than seeing the art. It’s about people sharing public space and re-discovering the city.’’

Over 200 volunteers from across the capital were recruited to support the festival through Team London, the Mayor’s volunteering programme for London, and whose local expertise and knowledge of the artworks helped make the festival a success.

Pic: Matthew Andrews