On Thursday 18th January, the Placemaking team went to check out Lumiere London, the most creditable Light Festival in central London.

The free festival is a collaboration between arts organisation Artichoke Trust and tourist board Visit London.

The evening prior had seen 60mph winds, torrential rain and ice cold conditions, so I was sceptical about spending the night outside open to the elements. However, the weather held up and we wrapped up warm to head out and explore.

Whilst in the final planning stages of the Festival of Light (Southampton) for Hammerson, it’s always great to see how other cities work, discovering how they engage the public with such a variety of installations.

In order to see as much as possible, the team split up across London and then met at the end of the night to discuss our thoughts.

Mayfair & Belgravia had a lot of installations this year, sponsored by one of our clients, Grosvenor, and others such as Regent Street Association, Astrea & Veolia. One of our favourites, which we have commissioned to be a part of the Southampton Festival of Light in February, is Illumaphonium.

lllumaphonium is a dynamic and interactive, multi-sensory, music-making installation and the first of its kind. Created by musician and inventor Michael Davis, the sculpture stands at a height of 3.5m and consists of more than a hundred illuminated chime bars. Each of these chimes respond to touch, with ever-changing patterns of light and sound spreading out like waves over the giant instrument’s surface, and bringing people together in a fun and spontaneous music-making experience. The crowds were gathering around the installation, waiting to create music – it was a great experience and atmosphere. I managed to catch Gemma and Michael, the artists behind the installation who were really pleased with the public response. We’re really looking forward to seeing them again in February for the build of Festival of Light.

lumiere london illumaphonium

From Illumaphonium, I then made my way to Grosvenor Square to check out the Northern Lights installation by Aleksandra Stratimirovic’s which we installed in November 2017 at The Oracle, in Reading (UK).

Reading was the first time this installation had been brought over to the UK from Amsterdam, so we were excited to see it in a different location! Some of the public in Grosvenor Square were saying that the installation would have come to life a lot more if there was some music in the park to match the movement in the installation, similar to ‘Was That A Dream’ in Berkeley Square.

SAM WARD: Account Manager

Sam started his evening by heading to the Southbank to see the installations set up along the South side of the river.

“Perhaps the most immersive installation we got the chance to see at Lumiere 2018 was The Wave – a triangular tunnel of light and sound that can been seen on London’s Southbank. The channel of 40 gates draws the audience in and, once inside, reacts to their movement by pulsing lights and sounds. Originally commissioned for a Danish arts festival – Frost Festival – the 80m long structure is made up of 4m high gates that each house sensors, speakers and lights. Just as impressive as the light and sounds produced was the level of craftsmanship that has clearly gone into its construction.

Walking through the installation gives the impression of being on a sci-fi highway, which is amplified by the crowds of people moving in both directions along the path. Clearly visible from a distance – The Wave – drew the largest audience we saw and is absolutely one of the must see pieces at this year’s Lumiere.”

IMOGEN TAYLOR: Account Executive

“I left the office and made my way to Kings Cross to have a look at the installations around the area.

The Kings Boulevard displayed the first of Kings Cross’ Lumiere 2018 installations, Lampounette, produced by TILT, A French Artistic Studio. The installation paid homage to the iconic office desk lamp, which also resembled the familiar Pixar lamp we all know so well.

The idea was for the installation to explore light and its interplay with architecture and space, which from afar, I think they achieved. They changed our view and perspective of an everyday object, dwarfing us humans in a somewhat playful manner, giving the inanimate object a control and power over us. I enjoyed this playful side of the installation but personally it came across somewhat unexciting. The installation aimed to create a dreamlike universe state, in the hope to change our view and experience of a familiar house hold object, but the lamps were painted a dreary dark green shade and the bulbs were un-exciting reds and blues. Which for me, made the build and architecture of the lamps more impressive than the lights itself.”

lumiere london lampounette TILT

LAURA HEMMINGS: Junior Account Manager

“Travelling down from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly, we had our sights set on Stéphane Masson’s “Supercube”. Hidden away down the back streets of St James’ we found the cube surrounded by a mass of visitors each captivated and delighted by 448 stacked Kilner jars which lined the four walls. Known for his passion to animate the most mundane of objects, we were intrigued to how Masson had displayed his talents.

The interactive installation allowed visitors to record themselves for a few seconds before their video was projected into one of the many jars, providing the illusion that the subject was enclosed within the jar itself. With the video projections of each jar constantly changing, this promoted an eager search from the individual to find their face in the cube before it disappeared. Despite the simplistic exterior, the installation certainly had the desired effect on its mesmerised visitors.”

LOUISA BASS: Account Manager

“The installation that stood out for me at Lumiere London was ‘Waterlicht’ by Daan Roosegaarde. The installation is ‘The dream landscape about the power and poetry of water’ (Studio Roosegaarde). It is a virtual flood and it shows how high water levels could reach without human intervention, raising awareness of heightening water levels as a result of global warming. The combined effect of smoke and light really does create an amazing ceiling of movement and the illusion that you are under water, so for me was by far the most memorable and impactful installation.”

lumiere london - Waterlicht Daan Roosegaarde

ADAM MUPRHY: Account Manager

Due to the winds, we weren’t able to see this installation on Thursday night but on Saturday I made my way back into central London to have a look at some more installations. Miguel Chevalier’s Origin of the World Bubble 2018 was a giant suspended ball right in the middle of Oxford Circus. An amorphous leviathan hovering ominously over the heads of its audience. Dominating the narrow strip of skyline to be found between the Georgian architecture and flagship stores.

As I look back to my time staring up at the massive ball looming large over our heads, the choice of name perhaps makes more sense. The piece’s name sake; L’Origine du Monde, an oil painting depicting a detailed close up of a woman’s genitals…One in the eye for the feminists then?

Lumiere London - L’Origine du Monde

Speaking to Paul Wigfield, Director of QED Productions who worked with Artichoke to provide all he projections, this was a challenging project due to the weather but everyone was relieved when it all went up successfully for the second night of Lumiere and managed to complete Miguel Chevalier’s installation at one of the businesses shopping streets in central London.

Let us know what you thought on the three day Light Festival and what your favourite parts were, we would love to hear it. Artichoke do a fantastic job of working with London, the public, the authorities and TFL to shut the streets for three nights. We loved Lumiere last year, and we loved it again this year. It’s great to see what’s out there and what new and emerging artists keep coming up with, impressing the public year on year.

We can’t wait to get down to Southampton to start the build of Festival of Light 2018 in a couple of weeks. Keep an eye on our social channels, twitter & instagram to keep up to date with the progress.

By Louise Ford