More than 12,000 local people across County Durham have been involved in making Lumiere happen, since the UKs leading light festival began in 2009.
In 2021 alone, Lumiere is working with community groups including school children, mental health service users, veterans and young carers through creative projects. This includes 685 individuals, 25 schools, six BRILIANT artists, across five Learning and Participation projects.
Far more than the four-day festival, Lumiere, produced by Artichoke and commissioned by Durham County Council with support from Arts Council England and a raft of funders and supporters, brings communities together to take part in making artworks, and leaving a legacy of skills and newfound potential behind.
This community focused approach is also at the heart of County Durham’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2025, which aims to build on the success of events like Lumiere to create even more opportunities for people to engage in the arts.
Maeve McDonnell, learning and participation assistant producer for Artichoke said: “Working on the community programme has been so rewarding. I’ve seen people really come out of their shells while taking part in the workshops to make the artworks”.
This year the whole Learning and Participation programme was supported by County Durham Community Foundation, which is providing match funding to support Lumiere community projects and encourage local businesses to help fund the festival. In its first year, the scheme has matched the support of 40 sponsors, making their contributions go even further and channelling greater investment into the County Durham community.
Michelle Cooper, chief executive of County Durham Community Foundation, said:”It’s thrilling to know that Lumiere will soon be lighting up the city again: as well as reaching out into the wider county. As a community foundation that cares deeply about making sure everyone has the chance to be part of something so special, we have been so honoured to support the Learning and Participation programme through our match funding offer to local businesses. The festival runs for four days, but the community element of the festival lasts for much longer, and it is this legacy of art and culture for all that we want to make possible.”
The local Durham community are this year helping create three key installations including Plastica Botanica, Article 12 and City of Light, City of Stories which will be enjoyed by thousands during Lumiere.
City of Light, City of Stories
Local people’s stories and handiwork have helped build imaginary City of Light. Supported by believe housing, Urban Base and Evan Cornish Foundation, local community groups, including Lumiere 2021 Charity Partner, the Waddington Street Centre, worked with when lantern artists and poets to build an imaginary city of illuminated streets, simple houses, grand architectural wonders, and even some familiar sites. This included creative writing sessions for young carers, run by local writer and creative writing tutor Lucie Brownlee, and other groups including Alzheimer’s and Veterans groups, their stories and the lanterns they inspired will populate The College for Lumiere (32 on Lumiere map).
Bill Fullen, chief executive of believe housing, said: “As one of the largest housing associations in the North East, we have an absolute belief that access to good quality housing is everybody’s right and allows people the chance to learn, to grow, and to aspire to greater things. That’s why we’re delighted to be supporting City of Light, City of Stories, which has given us the opportunity to work with the Artichoke team to give people living across County Durham the opportunity to develop their creativity and play a vital part in Lumiere. We believe in a life without barriers, and this year more than ever, Lumiere is giving local communities a platform to input into what the festival means to them.”
Community groups have transformed household plastics into a botanical paradise. Twelve different community groups ranging from Scouts to special needs groups and those working on food poverty participated in this crafty artwork designed by Plastic Shed, transforming brightly coloured plastic, from shopping bags, tins of beans and parcel wrapping, into beautiful mosaics. These will be turned into flower petals for 25 abstract flower installations illuminating the South Bailey (33 on Lumiere map).
One of the groups was the Stanley Open Art Group.
Laura Brenchley who runs group said: “Having these workshops is so important. Many of the people in our group may never attend Lumiere because of mobility issues, so it wouldn’t mean anything to them. But because they’ve taken part in this, it does. It includes them.”
The group is for people with mild mental health problems, and people with disabilities or long-term pain caused by stroke. It was founded six years ago, is based at The Venue, in Stanley, and for some members, is their only form of contact with other people.
Plastica Botanica is supported by Darlington Building Society and Wyn Construction.
Year 9 students from Durham Federation school students worked with writer Lucie Brownlee to write their words in light working for a series of neon artworks on Saddler Street and Silver Street (29 on Lumiere map).
Lucie Brownlee said: “Coming together and doing something collaboratively and having something at the end of it that they can be really proud of that they’ve worked on together is perhaps more important this year than any other.”
The students followed up with an amazing science project to create and mould their words in neon. Article 12, supported by Atom Bank, Ragdoll Foundation and Barbour Foundation, references the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which establishes the right of every child to freely express their views.
A place of culture and innovation
Lumiere is the UK’s leading light festival. Since 2009 the festival has attracted more than a million visitors to the city.
Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “Over the years, Lumiere has strengthened County Durham’s reputation as a place of culture and innovation. It is also is a shining example of how engaging people in the arts can bring people together, raise aspirations and reaffirm local pride. The fact 12,000 local people have helped to make Lumiere happen since 2009 is wonderful and I cannot wait to see the results of this year’s creative projects.
“This is why Lumiere is such an important event and a key part of County Durham’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2025. The success of the festival’s outreach programme demonstrates the appetite that exists for culture in our county, along with our desire to create opportunities for people to express their creativity and share their stories.”
To view the full festival programme, visit the Lumiere Festival website.