Lumiere: Durham’s festival of lights

Durham is one of the jewels in the crown of the North East.  It is a beautiful old town, with narrow passage ways, cobbled streets and the star attractions of the Castle and Cathedral are UNESCO sites.

This has been a good year for Durham.  The fourth Ashes test was hosted in Durham’s cricket ground at nearby Chester-Le-Street, the Lindisfarne Gospels were on display at a hugely successful 3 month exhibition, and to round it off, Durham’s festival of lights, Lumiere, returned for it’s second run.


The first Lumiere festival took place in 2011.  This was massively popular, but criticised for poor organisation in terms of crowd management.  I didn’t go to the first one, but from what I have heard, it sounded pretty chaotic.  To address the safety concerns, new measures were taken for this festival to manage and organise the staggering numbers of people visiting this attraction.  The festival runs from 14th-17th November 2013, and it is estimated that 60,000 people visited in the first two days alone.

To manage this, tickets were required (which were available free of charge) to visit the central attractions between 4.30pm and 7.30pm every night.  After that, there was a good old fashioned queue to enter into the central market place and follow the path up to the cathedral.  Jim & I did not have tickets, and so we took the tactic of going late in the hope that the queues for the central attractions would have died down.  No such luck – we arrived at around 9pm and the queue was still 35 minutes long, just to enter the market place, and longer still to actually walk up towards the Cathedral.  We therefore made the decision to concentrate on the attractions outside the city centre.

And there were certainly plenty on display.


There was the viaduct lit up with changing colours.


The riverside path has never looked more beautiful, with perfect reflections on the glassy water and a fabulous view of the castle above.


A word-clock lit up the side of the clayport library…


…whilst the Milburngate House Juke Box pulsed to music, requested by visitors.

By far our favourite attraction was the quirky stick men climbing (or should I say dancing) their way up the side of the Durham Miners’ Hall in time to music.


We did eventually make it into the centre.  After wandering around, the queue did die down enough to get into the market place.  Here we found the Prince Bishop’s shopping arcade hung with a strings of lights in carrier bags like chinese lanterns…


…leading to the a Christmas Tree, made entirely from shopping bags.


I love the Christmas tree – it is so creative.  I would love it if they could keep it as their Christmas tree for the whole season!

By this point, it was 10.30pm and the lights were going off in 30 minutes.  The queue up to the Cathedral was still far too long to even contemplate attempting it, and so we gave up on that and satisfied ourselves with the glimpses that we had seen from the riverside walk and the train station.

We only saw a tiny fraction of what Lumiere had to offer.  I have no doubt that Lumiere will return in the future, and on my return visit, I will definitely try to get a ticket for the centre and give myself a bit more time to wander round the outer attractions.

Durham is a such a beautiful city, and Lumiere is a really creative and imaginative way to showcase that beauty.  All of the light installations that we saw were so well done, so pretty and so sympathetic to the city itself – nothing was gaudy, tacky or out of place.  It turned the whole city into art.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures, and so here are some more of my favourites:

DSC_0486 DSC_0483 DSC_0461 DSC_0455 DSC_0436


6 responses to “Lumiere: Durham’s festival of lights

  1. Thank you so much for the pingback! Nice to meet you and I’ll come back for a look around a little later. I want to go and play with the interactive Lumiere website before it’s too late. Love your reflective under the arches bridge shot! 🙂

  2. I like the shopping bag christmas tree too! and if the sound quality matched the image, which I imagine would have been pretty difficult to do the pice de resistance has to be that juke box. Now if it could recapture the tunes from the Newcastle Poly Students Union Green Bar juke box from 1977-78 that would be just perfect!

  3. Pingback: 500 photos – scenes of Durham | 500adventures·

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