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We Went to Durham Lumiere 2021

Now if you’ve been a follower of Flickering Mind you’ll know I’m an art lover. My favourites being the abstract, emotion provoking works of starved artists. Because hey, everyone loves an underdog right? We went to the Lumiere festival a few years ago and it was a disaster. I didn’t prepay for tickets, it was raining, we tried to take the dog and I’ve never seen a city so packed with people you could hardly move. So with Lumiere returning after COVID-19 I was going to be prepared to see me some art made of lights!


We had hoodies and coats on! Double warmth. It wasn’t raining, another point to us. I had tickets, Lumiere 0 - Annie 2. Left the dogs at home, not today my fur babies! And got there 20 minutes before my 6pm tickets. Stress who? I’ve got this. Until…


Oh wait. Get to the front of the line and my tickets are for 8pm and not 6pm. Lumiere 1 - Annie 2. Well played Lumiere. After much stress and a little pleading the ticket guard took pity on my family and let us in. Hallelujah.


Now the first installation I loved. A whole band made of lights looking and sounding like they’re playing live. I don’t know why but I particularly found the detail of seeing what would be the drummers foot hitting the bass pedal in time, hilariously endearing. Look at his little light food go, I said.

Lights reflect on Durham Cathedral at Lumiere 2021
In Our Hearts Blind Hope at Durham Lumiere Festival 2021

Lights projected onto Durham Cathedral at Lumiere 2021
In Our Hearts Blind Hope at Durham Lumiere Festival 2021

From here we joined the masses general movement. Like a hive mind we carved our way through Durham in the hundreds until the snake of people slithered up to the cathedral. Now that was amazing. Projected into the whole cathedral face were scenes of a journey of new hope. The music and visuals combined were truly breath-taking. I don’t want to spoil any of the installations for anyone still planning to go so I won’t say too much. But wow!


After the show of awe finished the human centipede we had created weaved it’s way through the cobbled streets under an installation made up of recycled plastic and floral lights. They were nice, pretty, but they didn’t blow my mind. They led us to a mini city, a utopia of rice paper buildings and attractions. Over the speakers played poems writing by local children and people about the futures they want to see. My nephew was one of those picked and hearing his voice looking at these lit up buildings as he talked about what he hopes for, well that was beautiful.



That moment was a little short lived though because things go down hill a bit from here. The snake of people are then blindingly led to the riverside, we could have been led to our gruesome demise and we would have still patiently placed one foot in-front of the other unaware the hive mind had turned on us. We queued for 45 minutes, yes that’s right, 45 minutes to see the next installation. Which was no bigger than a typical living room window and could only been seen through iron bars. The biggest anti-climax of my life. I wanted to scream at those still waiting in the seemingly never ending queue “it’s not worth it!” But let’s face it, my anxiety wouldn’t let me do something that bold.


From here we circled down the riverside to end up where we started. Passing the installation of lines. They were just lines. Like literally, lines of light along the riverbank. The only thing that made this seem worth the time was the sausage dog behind us in the conga line of art critics for a day. He was friendly but shy, adorable and his owners let us fuss over him. Honestly, I would have took a bullet for this dog that I’d only known for 5 minutes.


Overall we enjoyed it however, I would have enjoyed it if we’d just seen the first three installations and left. The rest seemed too spaced out and not worth shuffling through the dramatic sea of queuing people. However, these were just the installations in the city centre of Durham. There are different installations dotted throughout the county and I hope so see them too before we miss our chance.


Let me know if you went to Lumiere 2021 and that was your favourite installation.


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