top of page
  • Durham OnAir

Lumiere Festival 2021 programme revealed!

The full programme of 37 international artworks for Lumiere 2021 has been revealed today, Tuesday 12th October, following Friday’s announcement that County Durham’s has made it onto the longlist for UK City of Culture 2025.

Created by Artichoke, the UK’s leading producers of art in the public realm and commissioned by Durham County Council with additional support from Arts Council England and a host of additional funders and supporters including Durham University, Lumiere will run from Thursday 18th - Sunday 21st November 2021.

Artichoke is marking the return to live events by presenting its most ambitious and far-reaching edition of Lumiere yet, with a programme that extends beyond the city into the wider county for the first time ever. An exciting series of new initiatives and collaborations bring an extraordinary new dimension to this ground breaking festival.

The turbulence of the past 18 months is addressed in several works, from memorial to optimistic opening, while the overarching issue of climate change and its environmental impact are huge influences on Lumiere artists this year.

The programme also addresses urgent questions of inclusivity and diversity, through the range of artists represented and the work they have made.

Lumiere 2021, will reimagine the historic contours of county and city, politics and society, through dramatic installations, spellbinding projections and quiet and poignant works, showcasing the infinite possibilities of light art in all its forms.

Lumiere’s new County programme: Marks in the Landscape

As well as in the City Lumiere artworks will be also located at Finchale Priory, Penshaw Monument, Raby Castle, Ushaw Historic House and Gardens, Peterlee and Seaham Marina.

For this major new element, complementing Lumiere’s existing county-wide community programme, six international light artists were invited to respond to previous interventions in the landscape made by humans across County Durham. Funded by the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund awarded to Durham County Council and spanning almost 500 years from a medieval priory to an iconic brutalist pavilion, these new works offer a different take on familiar landmarks brought to life in unexpected ways.

· Medieval meets modern in Javier Riera’s Castle of Light (Spain), a series of 3-dimensional abstract projections that magically transform the lakeside façade of Durham’s famous 14th-century fortress, Raby Castle.

· Finnish artist Kari Kola brings his experience of lighting world heritage sites such as Stonehenge to Finchale Priory with Solitude, a new site-specific commission, which will be accompanied by a soundscape composed by Sylvain Moreau. Finchale Priory is cared for by English Heritage.

· Elaine Buckholtz and Ian Winters’ A Telling of Light (US) will transform Penshaw Monument, an iconic North East landmark cared for by National Trust, into a beautiful and haunting COVID-19 memorial made up of projections of a single illuminated breath.

· Occupying a prominent position in Seaham Marina is GO WITH THE FLOW / SWIM AGAINST THE TIDE, a large-scale LED text sculpture by Tim Etchells (UK), pairing two well-known phrases, which seem to contradict each other, hinting at the social struggles of compliance and resistance.

· An energising beacon of luminous colour will radiate across Ushaw Historic House and Gardens in Liz West’s Hymn to the Big Wheel (UK), creating an intriguing and immersive interplay of coloured shadows.

· Finally, Apollo 50 by Berlin-based artists, Mader Wiermann, which was first shown in Peterlee to mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic brutalist Apollo Pavilion, returns for Lumiere 2021, transforming the concrete structure with a mesmerising light sequence.

Lumiere’s first collaboration with leading poets

In this major new initiative, Artichoke in collaboration with New Writing North and Durham University, is stepping into the world of contemporary poetry. With new commissions from ten of the UK’s most exciting poets, including Kayombo Chingonyi, Selina Nwulu, Roger Robinson, Kae Tempest and Michael Rosen, these new works will be projected onto the ancient walls of Durham Castle. Anthology - Into the Light seeks to engage with the meaning of light and darkness through the interplay of words, light and sound.

Lumiere’s first online and in-person interactive artwork

Tekja’s Tree of Hope (UK) is a digital tree which evolves online in response to the hopes expressed by individuals around the world. Inspired by Durham’s history as a place of ‘big thinkers’ and stunning landscapes, the sapling will grow into a beautiful tree as hopes are gathered online from Durham and around the world.

This is the first-ever Lumiere artwork to be hosted in the digital space, giving audiences a chance to be part of the magic whether or not they are present at the festival. The live audience will also get a chance to contribute to the physical representation, while the online tree will continue to live online beyond the four days of the festival.

New works referencing the climate crisis

Lines, a vivid white line which cuts across the Fulling Mill stretch of the riverbank - is an artwork by Pekka Niittyvirta & Timo Aho (Finland) that highlights the catastrophic impact of rising sea levels. Imminence, a light and sound installation by Novak (UK) invites the public to experience and reflect on animated scenes depicting the consequences of climate change as they unfold beneath your feet. Issues captured in the vibrant projected landscape and accompanying soundscape range from deforestation and bee extinction, to coral bleaching and global warming.

New Interactive sound works

Everyone can be a musician at this year’s Lumiere. Activated by touch, Halo by Illumaphonium (France) is an illuminated interactive musical sculpture that allows everyone to make music and never play a duff note. Over at St Oswald’s Church, Sming by Superbe (Belgium) is one of the most intriguing installations of the festival, where participants become both conductor and choir.

New to Lumiere Inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, Palma Studio (Hungary/UK) will transform the façade of Durham Cathedral into an immersive reflection on the present moment, the darkness and loss we have endured as well as the glimmering return of Lumiere as a moment of collective hope with In Our Hearts Blind Hope. With musical contributions sourced from local residents and Durham University orchestra.

CHRONOS by Epsztein & Gross (France) is a video-mapped projection and soundscape that takes the viewer on an audio-visual voyage through time from the Belle Epoque and the Industrial Revolution, through to the present day. Dominik Lejman’s video mural, When Today Makes Yesterday Tomorrow (Poland), explores themes of surveillance and control.

Jim Campbell’s renowned Scattered Light (US) incorporates almost 2,000 LED bulbs which will flicker to create the illusion of figures moving across St Mary’s College terrace. Groupe LAPS (France) brings an LED rock’n’roll band to Durham’s historic Market Place with an all-night performance by The Froggs. Luminous light pours into a dark tunnel through corrugated coloured panels with Liz West’s Drop Scene (UK), creating mesmerising and kaleidoscopic visuals. A giant iconic desk lamp, Lampounette, by TILT (France), transforms its space in the city into a warm, welcoming living room.

Shifting Ground is a new commission by Tim Etchells (UK) that plays with meaning at Durham Miners’ Hall, contrasting past certainties and present instability, while Tony Heaton’s neon pink projection, A Larger Ripple (UK), is humorous, subversive and political.

Brilliant Winners

The six inventive artworks from the winners of the BRILLIANT competition, including four from the North East, will also be revealed.

· Two for Joy by Erin McDougle (Newcastle), based on the old nursery rhyme, “one for sorrow, two for joy”, encourages warmth with its good omen.

· Steph Whalen (County Durham) aims to raise awareness about hidden disabilities through coloured hearts in the sky with Invisible Hearts.

· Inspired by the prolonged periods when we may have been unable to visit friends and family, Reconnect by Paul Jex’s (Newcastle) features a set of street signs of sentimental significance.

· Kaleidoscope by the Northern Butterflies (Cramlington) was inspired by the group’s experience of managing a community allotment.

· Daksha Patel’s (UK) projections for The Fossilised Sea reveals Durham’s geological history from 325 million years ago.

· Taking inspiration from the water patterns of the River Wear and the monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tendayi Vine and Bea Wilson’s Limina (UK) invites visitors to immerse themselves in liquid light.

New community-led works

As always there is the involvement of a wide range of community groups and individuals from across County Durham taking part in the creation of artworks for this year’s festival.

· Local residents have collaborated with lantern artists from The Lantern Company and Jo Pocock (UK) contributing their own stories to create City of Light, City of Stories (UK) which will transform College Green into a glowing cityscape of lanterns.

· Meanwhile huge hanging flowers reimagine and reuse household plastic in the crafty artwork Plastica Botanica (UK) designed by Plastic Shed and created by local community groups.

· Referencing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which establishes the right of every child to freely express their views, Article 12 (UK), a series of text light neon artworks, celebrates the voices of local young people.

Returning favourites

Floating Pictures’ Colour by Light (Sweden) which first delighted audiences in Durham at Lumiere 2017, will once again provide an opportunity for visitors to get creative and paint the streets of Durham with the use of a smartphone, torch or any source of light.

Three permanent artworks which have already become part of the fabric of the city will also be on display for visitors to enjoy.

· Lightbenches by Bernd Spiecker for LBO (Germany) has been encouraging passers-by to take the weight off their feet since 2015,

· Jon Voss’ Heron from Lumiere 2017 continues to capture a fleeting moment in time – the unfolding wings of one of Britain’s most iconic birds.

· Installed following Lumiere 2019, The Next Page, illuminates the words by Women residents at HMP Low Newton in Brasside and poet Hannah Jane Walker (UK).

Helen Marriage, Director of Artichoke, said:

“It has been an extraordinary and unimaginable two years since we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Lumiere. None of us could have foreseen the pandemic from the perspective of 2019 and the trauma and disruption that it would visit on our communities. This year’s festival is therefore very special, not least because there has been so much uncertainty around whether or not we would be able to make it happen.

“So we begin by saying this is a celebration. And all the more so with the exciting news that County Durham has been longlisted for City of Culture 2025. It’s also an affirmation of the strength of the amazing partnerships and collaborations Lumiere has built across County Durham over the last ten years: with our Commissioner Durham County Council major partner Durham University, within the local community, and with all of our partners who have demonstrated such faith, confidence and resilience during the long planning process in the production of this event.

“And Lumiere continues to grow deep roots. For the first time, we are launching a brand-new programme of major installations taking the festival out across County Durham, and further embedding a countywide participation programme that has involved thousands of local residents and young people in Lumiere projects over the last decade. Other significant new initiatives include a wonderful first collaboration with some of the UK’s leading poets, and our first-ever digital artwork hosted online, enabling the global Lumiere community to join in the magic wherever they are in the world.

“As ever, artists sit at the heart of our work. Their ability to transform the everyday, to make us look with wonder at the truth that lies just below the surface of our complicated lives, their messages of hope for a different future and reflections on past lives – this is the important core of this year’s Lumiere programme and the centre of Artichoke’s work.”

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said:

“As the UK’s leading light festival, Lumiere has truly put County Durham on the map and is a shining example of how culture enhances the vibrancy of our communities.

“It also demonstrates the scale of our cultural ambitions, which are driving forward the Durham 2025 campaign and no doubt helped to secure our place on the UK City of Culture 2025 longlist.

“Lumiere’s return is all the more special this year, as it is the first-time the installations will be spread across the county, making it even easier for our residents to enjoy the magic of the festival. It will also encourage visitors to explore other parts of our wonderful county, extending the economic benefits the event brings.

“The programme reflects the spirit of creativity and innovation we pride ourselves on here in County Durham and I can’t wait to share this unforgettable experience with our residents.”

Professor Janet Stewart, Executive Dean (Arts and Humanities), Durham University said:

Lumiere holds a special place in the hearts of many and we are excited to once again be supporting the festival in lighting up our beautiful city for everyone to enjoy.

“Our continued support for Lumiere is part of our deep-rooted commitment to the community, supporting culture, creativity and heritage in our City, County and the North East. The three installations we are hosting will bring an inspiring dash of artistic creativity and vision to some of our newest and some of our most historic buildings.

“We are delighted that many enthusiastic staff and student volunteers from our University will be helping to make the festival a great success across our campus and the wider city.”

Alongside Lumiere, The Bright Ideas Gathering will provide a new platform for the ideas and people changing our world. Inspired by the success of the festival, it will be an experience that will enlighten, entertain and elevate. Taking place on Saturday 20th November, 9.30-5pm, it will take place in the Durham Miners Hall, a venue with a storied history of fostering impactful and influential debate, discussion and ideas.

Changes to ticketing at Lumiere

Lumiere is open each night between 16:30 and 23:00. (County programme 16:30 to 22:00). The festival is completely free to attend and 29 of the 39 installations are always accessible without a ticket. In a change from previous years, the controlled City centre area of Lumiere will be ticketed for the entirety of the festival opening times every night. This is to manage audience numbers as part of measures in place to offer a COVID secure experience.

Digital ticketing in the controlled central Lumiere zone

A timed ticket will be necessary to visit the controlled central Lumiere zone at any time between 16:30 and 23:00 when the festival closes. There is no time limit once inside the controlled zone. Tickets will be available for the following time slots: 16:30, 18:00, 19:00, 20:00, 21:00, 22:00.

Priority booking for local residents

All tickets will be available online at

Free tickets will be available online for local residents from 10:00 on Tuesday 19th October. Tickets will go on general release at 10:00 on Thursday 21st October.

Parking restrictions and road closures

Letters have been posted to residents and businesses in affected areas with information about parking restrictions and road closures.

For more information and updates


bottom of page