Lumiere light festival to return in 2019

Durham will host its most ambitious ever Lumiere light festival in 2019, featuring a selection of some favourites from the past decade of festivals.

Durham County Council’s Cabinet agreed to re-commission Artichoke to deliver large scale events in both 2019 and 2021, with community activities and legacy artworks in the years between.

The 2019 event will run from 14 to 17 November and will see a number of highlights from the previous five festivals shine a light on the county – to mark the event’s 10th anniversary. Lumiere was established in Durham in 2009 and the 2019 programme is expected to wow the hundreds of thousands of people who flock to the biennial event and to ensure that the county is showcased on a global scale. It will feature a mix of some favourites and brand new artworks.

Announcing the confirmation, Durham County Council’s leader, Cllr Simon Henig, said: “I am absolutely delighted to invite Artichoke back and I can’t wait to hear more about what we can expect. 2019 marks a decade from the birth of Lumiere in Durham and it seems fitting to mark that in spectacular fashion, particularly as we anticipate the combined visitor numbers linked to previous editions will see us surpass one million next year.

“Every event delivers huge opportunities for us to shout about what a wonderful place Durham is and to use that profile to promote our county as a fantastic destination to visit, live, study and do business. This importance is also reflected in the growth in support from the private sector with an ever increasing number of sponsors and supporters getting involved each time. We are also really grateful for the continuing support from all our partners including Arts Council England, the Cathedral, University and Durham Constabulary.”

Welcoming the news, CEO and artistic director of Artichoke, Helen Marriage, said: “The festival’s continued success shows what is possible when the local authority, local business and local people come together behind a project, allowing us as producers to push the boundaries and do really exciting things.

“The challenge is to keep it feeling fresh, so that Lumiere is always an adventure. I know a lot of people head for the centre: Cathedral, Market Place, Riverside and Castle. But I never want Lumiere to become predictable and I think this has been the key to its success over the years. I’m always thinking of new ways to explore the cityscape and make the experience something of a magical journey of discovery.”

Asked what we can expect for 2019 Helen continued: “That would be telling wouldn’t it? What I can say is that I’m so excited to be programming the 10th anniversary Lumiere festival and that it will be a moment to reflect and look back as well as forward. There will be highlights from the last ten years, a sort of ‘director’s cut’, alongside new commissions. Watch this space!”

At Cabinet today members heard that Lumiere 2017 attracted record 240,000 strong crowds, delivered the greatest ever community outreach opportunities involving 1,700 people across the county, provided volunteering opportunities for more Festival Makers than ever before and saw its regional audience grow significantly – securing the festival’s place as one of both regional and national significance. It was also worth more than £7.5 million to the county’s economy.

It was agreed that together these factors presented a compelling case to commission further festivals and to facilitate this a £1.8 million VAT windfall ring-fenced for cultural activity from the council’s culture and sport department to support future events was agreed.  It will help deliver two full Lumiere light festivals in 2019 and 2021, interspersed with light-themed activities in the off-years.  This will, in turn, release an additional £1 million from Arts Council England to support the festival. The balance will, as usual, be raised by Artichoke via partnerships, sponsorship and grants.

The evaluation report also outlines how well received the festival was with 90 per cent of those surveyed by independent company Marketwise, saying the event is good for the city’s image.

The festival also delivers legacy public artworks for the city – Helvetictoc in Millennium Place, Light Benches on the Riverside, and later this year the stunning illuminated heron – all made possible by the Banks Community Fund. A further legacy work, supported by Milburngate, which involves illuminating the railway viaduct in the city is also expected to be completed later this year.

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