Celebrating light with Durham

The Waterfall

The Waterfall

When a city you know and love hosts an international event you just have to be there.  Never mind if the result is a black eye.  It’s called suffering for your art?

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral and the weir

In late Autumn’s fading light we wandered along the riverbank awaiting the moment of revelation.  So many times we had strolled these ancient cobbled streets but this evening something strange was in the air.

Flying man

Flying man

He and his many friends hovered above us, saying little but seeing much.  Slowly the light faded, the sense of anticipation building.

Cathedral spires

Cathedral spires

Durham County Council had worked overtime to provide a festival guide with a route map around the 35 installations.  As 6.30 approached we joined the shuffling crowds on Palace Green to await a spectacle that would stay with us forever.  The street lights dimmed and we collectively held our breath.

Flushed red

The Cathedral face flushed with red

Music crashed into the hush and a flood of red illuminated the front portal of the Cathedral.  Wave upon wave of images followed, their theme the Lindisfarne Gospels.

The Gospels So hard to capture, without specialist equipment, the drama unrolling before us.  “Crown of light” its formal title, had been recalled by popular demand from the previous Lumiere Festival in 2009 and it was very easy to see why.  I cannot begin to do it justice here but maybe you can gain some appreciation from www.lumieredurham.co.uk

When silence descended again it was time to set off on a voyage of discovery.  The street lights remained off to maximise the effects, which made negotiating the riverbank a little tricky.  But the views were spectacular.

The snow dome

The snow dome

One of our favourites had to be “I love Durham” in the Market Place.  The Marquess of Londonderry statue was captive inside an enormous snow dome, the like of which I have never seen.  I couldn’t conceive how such a thing was possible and the magic of the whirling snow flakes enthralled the crowd.

So much more was there to see.  We lingered beneath the towering illuminated viaduct as trains slipped across, seeming not to wish to disturb the soundtrack to the patterns created on the side wall of the North Rd Methodist Church.  Up the steps to the Gala Theatre, head swivelling to take it all in.

And then disaster befell.  My eye was caught by “60 second Cathedral”, a Polish projection of skydivers on the Claypath Library.  Triumphantly I gestured to my partner, before tumbling head over heels over a concrete block.

Thank you to the people who scrambled to put me back together again.  Michael looked more dazed than I felt!  I was just gratefull that my fall had come at the end of our  tour and we could go home with the memories intact.


  1. Thanks David. There were cameras and tripods everywhere. My husband tends to watch 24hour news so I’ve seen the BBC video lots of times. I’ll prompt you for the next show when 2013 comes around.


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