Every year, around this time in January, the general mood in the UK starts to plummet. Any evidence of ardently devoured mince pies has all but evaporated into the ether alongside the remnants of the festive-flavoured brandy creams once so strategically placed beside them. The reams of unread work emails that you shunned without guilt for a fortnight now adhere to your fingers like an unwelcome, lingering resin. And the glowing beams of Christmas lights that illuminated London’s skies throughout December have hibernated for the winter, leaving a darker, drearier backdrop for the New Year…or did they?
Last year, when the glistening Yuletide bulbs in London vanished, they left a blank canvas for the likes of the Lumiere London Festival to stain the sky with brazen neon strokes, showing Londoners and visitors alike that there is more colour to January than the blues.
In a month where we have a tendency to avoid eating out following a spate of food excess, when we haven’t yet committed to our travel plans for the upcoming year and when we shy away from cash-intensive activities, following the nation’s multi-billion pound expenditure over Christmas, I for one tend to spend most of January hidden indoors. I unashamedly traipse around in my Santa-like fleece boot slippers, boosting up the heating (when Pumpkin’s not looking) and downing large mugs of tea (usually whichever newest one I’ve been given for Christmas since all those around me are now au fait with my guil-tea pleasure).
But last year, one glimpse of the Insta-pics of Lumiere read of a newspaper article about the Lumiere London Festival gave me the impetus I needed to swap PJs and hoodies for jeans and gloves one Friday night after work, as I headed into central London to meet Pumpkin so we could get the lowdown on this unfamiliar light festival.
For that weekend only, various well-known areas of London including Kings Cross, Westminster, Leicester Square and Regent Street were brightened up with a series of light installations, light features, wall mural light displays, light sculptures and even light-based activities. Our immersion into this shining world was to begin before we even exited the station as we found ourselves following a crowd through this tunnel.
We found the bird-cage in Kings Cross cycling between colours like a child with a short attention span but most actual children (and adults like me) in the Kings Cross vicinity were more preoccupied with queueing for an opportunity to “write”and “paint” the tarmac beneath them with light sabers.
Iridescent hues splashed across Westminster Abbey giving the iconic location of 2011’s Royal Wedding a daring and boundary-pushing facelift.
Eerie human-esque figures peered down at around Green Park, free-floating somewhat menacingly from above.
Then, there was the elephant light feature on Regent Street, so true to form that it left us feeling as if we were involved in some kind of futuristic urban safari.
Whether your eyes are drawn to fashion pieces, to animals, to upcycled goods (check out the plastic bottles-turned-lamps) or more simplistically to colour itself (I am a sucker for a rainbow and all the tones encompassed within one), this was a festival that was visually striking to most.
With its late evening and weekend opening, its free entry and lack of ticket requirements, workers weren’t left out, families weren’t left out, tourists weren’t left out and it wasn’t an activity that excluded anyone by cost.
We gathered, by how many children were absorbed in the Lumiere Festival, that it was a most legitimate reason to bring your 8-year-old out to central London at 9pm on a wintry Friday night and the children we spotted were still going strong when our yawns started to take effect towards the end of the night.
Naturally, there were some crowds, neither unbearable nor unmanageable but if it’s a choice between facing them to see the innovative light inventions and art works rather than trudging through the masses to reach Primark on Oxford Street, I can live with that.
I had never seen a festival like this before and even the concept was a first for me, once again reminding me why this city still keeps me on my toes and why I love living within the contours of all this action.
Some took the festival a lot more seriously, completing challenges to compete over how many of the light features they could tick off in an evening. Some worked the Lumiere Festival with a systematic approach based on geography.
We, as per always, adopted a more laissez-faire approach, only deciding to go a couple of hours earlier, flitting between areas of the city in an ad hoc, disjointed manner.
Regardless of the way with which you were viewing it, however, there was no denying the sense of intrigue, curiosity, fascination and colour (both literal and metaphorical) that the festival was bringing to London in a month where it would be most appreciated.
So caught up in the web of colourful fantasia were we that 24 hours later, after spending a day meeting our friend’s new baby, we returned once more to unfold the colourful corners we had left unturned earlier. We still couldn’t see everything; the lively energy seeming to have no boundaries, transporting us from street to street under a canopy of vivid artistry.
Lamenting the lack of Lumiere in 2017
I needed no persuasion of what a welcome addition to a London New Year this festival would be but I had hoped that in writing this, I may coax you into visiting in 2017.
Unfortunately, it appears the festival will not be happening in London this year and from the sources I found online, that seems to be in part related to the scale of organisation required to host an event of this magnitude – a real pity, as I hoped it would become something of a regular feature to the city, the way the Christmasy Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park had done so many years ago.
Still, pondering whether to proceed with blogging about it or not, I realised I must. After all, I founded this blog with the purpose of crystallising our most unique and inspiring exploits, both abroad and on our doorstep and this, without a doubt, was one of them.
And whilst I may not have any authority or ability to bring the festival back to London, I hope at least to spread a little colour with my photos and recollections to help brighten up anyone still feeling the January blues. Alternatively, if you are nearer the North of England or willing to travel further, the good news is that Lumiere will be back in Durham later this year.
Did you make it to the Lumiere London Festival last year?
31 thoughts on “Beating the January blues at Lumiere London Festival”
wowee! Can’t believe I missed this. Keep saying I will go and then I never get around to it. Next year perhaps!
I would say yes go next year Gary except that we don’t know if or when it will be back in London unfortunately! I was really hoping it would make an appearance this year but was sad to see it won’t be in London this year (although it will be in Durham). It was such a hit last year and I personally absolutely loved all the bright colours so fingers cross, it returns!
so beautiful ❤
Thanks! It was such a vibrant, colourful festival that made London look even more pretty than normal 🙂
It was such a fun colourful way to start the year Ester! I hope they bring this back to London one day 🙂
I LOVED Lumiere last year. I was hoping they’d bring it back too, but I read a few weeks ago that it just got too busy and if they did return, they’d need to spread out the displays to avoid the crowding. It’s a pity really. I posted on my blog http://jenikya.com/blog/2016/01/lumiere-london.html
(The DNS changed without notice but hopefully the blog will be set up again in a couple days)
Thanks so much for sharing your link Jen, I can’t wait to read about your experiences at Lumiere last year too! I’m so glad you enjoyed it as much as I did but yeh seriously, such a pity it’s not coming back this year. I hadn’t realised it was because of the crowds, that’s such a shame as it seemed so well loved by people of all ages. Makes me very grateful and glad though that I went last year, even during an otherwise busy weekend – would have regretted not making it there!
Wow!! What beautiful photos! I love all the colors.
Thanks Constance! It was great to see London lit up in so many colours across so many different sites, especially whilst everyone normally camps indoors in the cold, grey January weeks!
So so beautiful, Shikha, it is always sad installations like these are temporary. I’m not a fan of January either, it feels so pale compared to festive and cheerful December.
I know! I’m such a fan of festive, fun, family times of the year like Christmas so January always feels cold and is always so busy at wok so this was a really lovely way to get people out and about in the city for something seriously dazzling. Such a shame it’s not returning this year, although luckily for the people up in the North of England, they’re hosting it up there this year!
I’m so glad you did write about it Shikha because I missed it last year. Now I can see it in all its glory via your blog. Shame it’s not happening again this year though…
Better late than never with my blog post eh Suzanne?! 🙂 It really is a shame, although I believe it’ll be in Durham possibly around November time so if you happen to be up north then, keep it in mind!
I loved Lumiere last year! Sad to read they won’t be doing it again, it was great to experience and especially good that it was free. I didn’t mind the crowds so much as the installations were totally worth it. Hopefully one day, it will be back.
I completely agree Nicole! I didn’t mind the crowds much either (frankly, they weren’t dissimilar to Oxford Street around Christmas time full of shoppers and I’d much rather brave the crowds for the light installations than the shops any day!) I was sad to hear that too but I’m glad they are at least hosting it somewhere else in the country to bring this spectacular burst of colour to another part of the country. I also really hope it’ll be back in London again in the future though. Thanks so much for reading 🙂
What a shame it’s not returning this year and I don’t understand why they only put it on for a weekend….it should be on for a month to give people the opportunity to come to London and see all the wonderful light installations! You’ve captured the images beautifully!
Thank you so much Maggie! Well, I thought it was because it was too large scale to arrange that they aren’t coming back but one of the other readers here has written that it might have been due to over-crowding. Either way, I’m sad it won’t be around as it was such a dazzling, bright visual feast and such a fabulous, innovative way to light up the post Christmas blues! Fingers crossed it might be back one day in the future 🙂
Such colours! I particularly love the floating people? I’ve never made it to this festival, I must make a trip!
I think that last year, when they held this festival, it was actually the first time they’ve done it in London and unfortunately, it’s not coming back here this year but if you happen go be heading anywhere near Durham, then you’ll still be able to catch it there later this year Keri!
I love Durham lumier, it comes here every other year so fingers crossed they repeat the pattern in London
I really hope so too Sam as it was such a fabulous festival to have in the city but at least I know it comes to Durham quite regularly so I can venture up that way if it’s not appearing back in London – thanks for the tip 🙂
Thanks Tanja! It was such a vibrant, colourful festival!
Such beautiful photos! It’s such a shame it’s not coming back this year. However the Winter Lights in Canary Wharf was a nice substitute 🙂
Thanks so much! I know, I was really disappointed to learn it wouldn’t be back but how did I manage to miss the winter lights in canary wharf – I actually didn’t know anything about them till I saw your comment, which is such a shame as it’s really not far from where I live! Next time! ☺
The installations were incredible during it!
I agree completely Keiran, they were just dazzling!
I wish they do it every year! I can’t see it up on London’s event schedule this year
Yes unfortunately, I couldn’t see it scheduled for this year either. It looks like they are doing it in Durham in the North of England this year but not in London again. Such a shame as so many people loved it & it brought so much colour & light to London last January.