The streets of Londonderry were thronged with visitors on the final night of Lumiere Derry~Londonderry as around 45,000 people flooded into the UK City of Culture to see the light festival, with the support of principal sponsor Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE).
Festival organisers Artichoke are delighted with the spectacular success of the festival, which transformed the UK City of Culture 2013 into a giant outdoor art gallery.
Conservative estimates suggest 179,000 visitors have attended the festival over the four nights. Queues on Saturday night stretched all the way down past Queens Quay and Airvag’s Symphonie Conique as thousands waited to cross the Peace Bridge to Ebrington, where Ocubo’s children’s fantasy tale Twice Upon a Time was projected onto the clock tower.
The biggest draw in the Waterside was Fire Garden by Compagnie Carabosse.
Originally planned to run for just three of the four nights, the installation was extended to Sunday night due to popular demand after Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister Caral Ni Chuilin provided the necessary extra funding.
On the Cityside, Novak’s stunning animation Voyage for Austins Department Store in the Diamond drew applause from the crowd after each cycle. Hundreds walked the Walls to see The Empty Plinth, a powerful beam of light projecting skywards, and Neon Dogs in the Walker Courtyard.
A Stitch in Time, the giant steel and LED light sculpture by Tim Etchells on the roof of the Rosemount Shirt Factory was visible from many points across the cityscape.
With seventeen separate installations to visit in locations all over the city, festival-goers explored and re-discovered Derry~Londonderry. Visible from the walls, Cleary-Connolly’s interactive Change Your Stripes in the Bogside took on different shapes and forms as people of all ages ran and danced in front of it.
Further along at the Gasyard, Ron Haseleden’s strings of blinking lights and early fairground music for Fête created a haunting vision of times gone by. In the Fountain, children and young people clambered over Daan Roosegarde’s Marbles, large moulded shapes that changed colour the more people touched and moved around them.
Public Projection for Derry~Londonderry by Polish artist, Krzysztof Wodiczko, provided serious food for thought. The Harvard-based artist recorded the stories of a cross-section of local people whose lives had been affected by the Troubles.
Their voices were broadcast from a converted ambulance, whilst projecting their words onto the walls of the Guildhall, as well as onto the monument at Free Derry Corner and the Verbal Arts Centre.
Quieter moments were to be found contemplating Elaine Buckholtz’s Spinning Night in Living Colour, whilst the giant neon sign celebrating the Undertones’ famous song Teenage Kicks on the roof of the BT Exchange building, was a firm favourite with visitors.
While a full evaluation of the economic impact of the festival remains to be done, hotels were at 100% capacity on Friday and Saturday night, indicating high levels of overnight visitors. Flights to and from the city were at a premium or completely sold out, and bars and restaurants were full of customers. Anecdotal evidence suggested that many shops were also busier than usual.
Artichoke’s co-director Helen Marriage said:
“Producing Lumiere Derry~Londonderry has been an extraordinary experience. It has been a joy to see the fruit of all the hard work over the last eighteen months. The atmosphere in the city during the festival has been incredible.
“Producing an event with seventeen separate art projects anywhere is an enormous challenge, and all the more so, when no-one quite knows what to expect. I think everyone has been surprised and delighted by the experience of rediscovering the city in this way.
“The people of Derry~Londonderry have embraced Lumiere with open arms. Their response has far exceeded our expectations and we’ve loved every minute of it”.
Culture Company Executive Programmer Graeme Farrow said:
“Lumiere worked on every level - it showed the city in the best possible light, it allowed both locals and visitors to see it afresh, and it invited people to take part. I always believed that it could provide the perfect finale to the year and it was everything we hoped for. I stood at the top of St. Columb’s Park with my family on Saturday night looking out over all of the fire and that beautiful cityscape and thought ‘Wow, what a place this is!’. As has been the case throughout the year, the people of the city took Lumiere to their hearts and made it extra special.”
Mayor Cllr Martin Reilly said: “Lumiere has been a spectacular event, the jewel in the crown in a string of successful events in the City of Culture calendar, and one that we will all remember for a very long time.
“Tens of thousands of people of all ages and across all communities have experienced this free public festival together. They have seen our beautiful city transformed into magical space of art and light, and been transformed by the experience.
“I am delighted that we have had the opportunity to showcase the city in this way. Visitors have had the chance to discover our city and locals have been able to see their city in a new light.”