Setting the sky alight: Light Night

The nights are drawing in, temperatures are dropping and winter beckons. This time of year is normally celebrated with an abundance of light, from the bonfires of Guy Fawkes Night through to New Year’s fireworks.

Light Night 2017 on campus

In Leeds, it is tradition to honour the shortening of days with Light Night, the UK’s largest annual arts and light festival. Light Night transforms the city into a glowing tribute to its diverse culture, creativity, and community.

Now in its sixteenth year, the festival has grown considerably from its humble roots. It was originally founded in October 2005 and inspired by its European counterpart, Nuit Blanche. The idea being to thematically light the city and attract people to visit Leeds and see its spaces in a different way.

From projections on iconic buildings to parades up and down the Headrow, art installations at the Dock, and performances across the city, Light Night showcases Leeds at its brightest. In previous years, the event attracts upwards of 150,000 visitors, but this year, the celebrations have been adapted and taken a new form.

Light Night is taking to the skies with a Laser Light City Experience. The event will allow you to take control of giant lasers to create your own striking displays and light up the city’s skyline.

To celebrate Light Night’s continued evolution, we’ve reflected on some of the highlights from the last few years.

Light Night 2016: Sculpture for Peace on campus.

The Elements

Returning in 2016 with events over two nights for the first time, Light Night celebrated The Elements. Highlights included Light Water, Dark Sky at the Dock where visitors could interact with an immersive, three-dimensional installation floating on the water. The exhibition, created by SquidSoup, was made up of 6,000 individually programmed lights to give the impression of moving water.

Our campus played host to a series of installations, including performances of YAA Devi, a series of traditional Indian dances interwoven with animation and visual effects, and Elements of Love, a visual storytelling experience that told the story of the Soul’s journey to fulfilment.

Sculpture for Peace was a particular favourite, where we invited members of the public to help create a beautiful, illuminated sculpture. Delicate origami cranes, traditionally seen as symbols of peace, were crafted by visitors, and strung up with accompanying lights and music in a unique installation.

Museum of the Moon, suspended over Leeds Dock in 2017. Image credit: Gary Butterfield, Unsplash.

The City and its People

In its thirteenth year, Light Night celebrated the people that make Leeds. The festivities included a parade that illuminated the Headrow, an aerial circus in Trinity Leeds, and projection-mapped mannequins installed in front of the Town Hall.

Artist Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon lit up the dock with a stunning installation of the moon suspended, as if floating, above the water. The seven-metre wide piece was made up of detailed images of the Moon’s surface from NASA.

Celebrations on campus, featured dynamic, human-centric installations including Green Light and Resonant Topologies at stage@leeds. Both pieces put people first, the former was a people-powered, sustainable installation that celebrated the Sustainable Theatre Living Lab project, and resulted in some beautiful light painting pieces. The latter explored the acoustic properties of architecture using an interactive app to help guide people through a hidden world.

Light paintings on campus in 2017.

Progress and Innovation

Marking a century since women won the right to vote, Light Night celebrated momentous social change with the theme of Progress and Innovation. An illuminated parade which featured gigantic floating suffragettes lit up the Headrow and kicked off the celebrations.

The University celebrated social change through Windows on a Lost City, an exhibition in the Treasure of the Brotherton Gallery. A remote viewer presented previously unseen photographs accompanied by hypnotic visuals. By using re-photography, the exhibition showed a city influenced by change, and demonstrated the true impact of urban transformation.

‘With Love’ by Franck Pelletier on display in Europe.

Mind, Body and Spirit

Following a year of visible social change, Light Night shifted its focus to mental health and spiritual wellbeing. Exhibitions encapsulated what it is to feel, and ultimately, be human. With Love, a giant heart outside of Leeds Town Hall, represented the pulse of the city. The piece measured two peoples’ heartbeats per minute and used the results to create an individual melody.

Other highlights included The Nectary on campus which was a sensory installation that allowed visitors to experience the ‘hum of the earth’ through a series of huge, glowing flower heads, carefully crafted from recycled plastic and hung from trees in University Square.

The Nectary on campus in 2019.

Get involved with Light Night 2020

Laser Light City will take place from Thursday 22 October through to Saturday 24 October, and you can get involved by visiting the website between 6pm and 11pm.

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