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UK's largest light festival set to return with 10th anniversary spectacular

Published July 03, 2018 4.50pm

Durham is set to shine on the world stage again, with a call to deliver the most ambitious ever Lumiere light festival in 2019, featuring a selection of some favourites from the past decade of festivals.

Lumiere Cabinet release

Lumiere 2017

Next week (July 11) our Cabinet will be asked to re commission Artichoke to deliver large scale events in both 2019 and 2021, with community activities and legacy artworks in the years between.

If agreed the 2019 event, which would run November 14 - 17, would bring back a number of the most popular artworks from the previous five festivals to mark the event's 10th anniversary. Lumiere was established in Durham in 2009 and the 2019 programme is expected to wow the hundreds of thousands of people who flock to the biennial event and to ensure that the county is showcased on a global scale. It would feature a mix of some favourites and brand new artworks.

Members will receive the evaluation of last year's Lumiere which attracted record 240,000 strong crowds, delivered the greatest ever community outreach opportunities involving 1,700 people across the county, provided volunteering opportunities for more Festival Makers than ever before and saw its regional audience grow significantly - securing the festival's place as one of both regional and national significance.

Our leader, Cllr Simon Henig, said: "The public's love of Lumiere continues to grow and the evaluation of the 2017 event presents a compelling case to commission Artichoke to deliver the most ambitious festival we have ever hosted, featuring a selection of the most popular artworks from previous years.

"2019 marks a decade from the birth of Lumiere in Durham and it seems fitting to mark that in spectacular fashion, particularly as we anticipate the combined visitor numbers linked to previous editions will see us surpass one million next year.

"Every event delivers huge opportunities for us to shout about what a wonderful place Durham is and to use that profile to promote our county as a fantastic destination to visit, live, study and do business. This importance is also reflected in the growth in support from the private sector with an ever increasing number of sponsors and supporters getting involved each time. We are also really grateful for the continuing support from our partners at the Cathedral and Durham University as well as Durham Constabulary."

£1.8m windfall

If agreed by Cabinet - we will allocate a £1.8 million VAT windfall ring-fenced for cultural activity from our culture and sport department to support four events - two full Lumiere light festivals interspersed with light-themed activities in the off-years. 

This will, in turn, release an additional £1 million from Arts Council England to support the festival. The balance would be, as usual, raised by Artichoke via partnerships, sponsorship and grants.

The evaluation report also outlines how well received the festival was with 90 per cent of those surveyed by independent company Marketwise, saying the event is good for the city's image.

It highlights the very significant economic impact, evaluated as more than £7.5 million pounds, the substantial value of media coverage which delivered Durham a high national and international profile and the strong social value of the event which saw Artichoke work with our Area Action Partnerships to involve a record 1,000 local people of all ages and backgrounds in some of the installations. In addition 720 children and young people took part via the schools programme. Together these benefits represent a very considerable return on investment for the council and the county.


Lumiere 2017 sat alongside two major international conferences which further boosted the county's profile - the world renowned LUCI international light conference saw delegates from all over the world explore the county over several days and global experts from many nations attended the light festival's 'Who are we and where are we headed' event at Gala Theatre.  

The festival also delivers legacy public artworks for the city - Helvetictoc in Millennium Place, Light Benches on the Riverside, and later this year the stunning illuminated heron - all made possible by the Banks Community Fund. A further legacy work, supported by Milburngate, which involves illuminating the railway viaduct in the city is also expected to be completed later this year. 

The full report is available to view at Cabinet agenda and minutes 11 July 2018.

It will be considered by Cabinet when members meet at County Hall on 11 July.

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