If Twelfth Night leaves you with the January blues, get yourself to Lumiere London this month, when Britain’s capital will be lit up like a Christmas tree all over again to brighten up the gloomiest week of the year.

A London park shape-shifted into a luminous jungle prowled by mysterious creatures, the aurora borealis lighting up Grosvenor Square, the National Theatre melting before your eyes.

Strange happenings are predicted for Britain’s capital city this January but they’re not paranormal phenomena – just extraordinary tricks of the light; digital alchemy and other technical hocus pocus that can turn stone to liquid, make stick figures dance across buildings and cause concrete to sprout flowers.
Timed to lift spirits in the depths of the British winter, Lumiere London will transform the capital into a luminous exhibition space without walls. Under the dextrous digital skills of more than 40 UK and international artists, the city’s most iconic streets and landmarks will shimmer and shine with a mix of 3D projections, interactive installations and animated LED art works that are FREE to see!

From 18-21 January – the week that begins with Blue Monday on January 15, officially the gloomiest day of the year – anyone within travelling distance of the capital will find it impossible NOT to see things in a more positive light.

Record numbers of visitors flocked to 2016’s inaugural event like moths to a flame, exceeding even the organisers’ expectations. Or as The Times newspaper puzzled: ‘What was it that made Londoners leave their homes and tourists their hotels during the city’s coldest four nights in years and, as many spontaneously did, lie face up on the freezing tarmac of Oxford Circus?’ In fact, it was American artist Janet Echelman’s aerial sculpture that saw folk prostrating themselves to get a better angle for their photographs, taking advantage of the traffic-free streets.

As people-pleasing as the Christmas lights which come down on Twelfth Night, the trompe l’oeil winter wonderland took 1.3 million residents and visitors away from their firesides and out into the cold streets during the post-festive lull and rung up an extra £22M worth of business.

Now a bi-annual event billed as London’s biggest art festival and most popular after-dark entertainment, this year’s edition will bring arctic Northern Lights to the city centre, transform King’s Cross into a glittering interactive light field and paint Westminster Abbey’s noble stone façade in pop art colours.
Many thoroughfares will be pedestrianised from dusk til late across a neon-lit map extending from Leicester Square to Mayfair, Covent Garden to Victoria and over the Thames to South Bank and Waterloo.

Lumiere is the brainchild of Artichoke, the leading UK producer of art in the public realm. Debuted in Durham in 2009 and held there every alternate year since, 29 twinkling installations were showcased in the north of England city last November. With the addition of Lumiere London, also biannual, Britain hosts a world-class light festival every winter.

“The first one brought people in their thousands out onto the streets of the city on some of the coldest nights of the year and ever since, people have been asking us when it will return,” says Artichoke’s CEO, Helen Marriage. “It’s more than the art: it’s about people sharing public space and re-discovering the city. At Artichoke, we use art to undermine the mundane and disrupt the everyday, and create a new kind of world that we’d all like to live in,”

Commissioned by the Mayor of London with support from a host of sponsors, Sadiq Khan promises that 2018’s will be “bigger, brighter and bolder than ever before – with even more areas of our city involved and even more people expected to visit this incredible world-class event.

“At what is usually a quiet time of year, we are showing that London is open to creativity, business and ideas from across the globe. So get ready to take to the streets and marvel at a dazzling array of incredible artwork and installations. There’s no better way to banish the January blues!”



Inspired by the enthralling aurora borealis of her homeland, Swedish artist Aleksandra Stratimirovic will recreate this shimmering natural phenomenon in the unlikely setting of Grosvenor Square. Just like the real aurora, the flow of light will take audiences by surprise, vanishing and re-appearing unpredictably.


The National Theatre fly tower will be transformed into a glowing beacon along South Bank’s skyline by digital artist, Ulf Langheinrich. The mind-boggling opus will use lighting techniques to animate and liquefy the building’s brutalist concrete lines so that it appears to melt.


Watch your step in Leicester Square Gardens after dark! Nightlife features ‘a host of curious nocturnal creatures hiding out in a luminous secret garden that plays with the tension between wild spaces and urban city life.’


Trendy Kings Cross will be the stage for Aether, a floating light field whose glittering mass grows, rolls and splinters into new patterns and colours according to the interactions of viewers. A spatial audio-visual collaboration between musician Max Cooper and Architecture Social Club, audiences can walk around, underneath and through the lattice of light as it warps around them.


Discover your inner-child in South Molton Street’s magical urban playground. Impulse is a set of eight illuminated seesaws which react to movement and sound to create a different experience for each user. Kids and grown-ups alike can experiment to create harmonic patterns through collective movement.


Based on the flowing lyrical movements of Matisse’s dancing figures, Love is an animation of two intricately paper-cut figures which will dance elegantly across the stone façade of Picadilly’s Royal Academy of Art. Designed by postgraduate student Rhys Coren, the moving soundtrack will nurture fuzzy warm feelings on a cold January night.


Light Festivals are tourism’s latest brilliant plan. Cities from Singapore to Sydney, Amsterdam to Toronto and even the Pyramids at Giza are co-opting these crowd-pleasing digital spectaculars onto their events calendars.
And why not? They keep shops open, visitors spending and hotel beds occupied in the off-season, and foster artistic talent and give sponsors their names up in LED lights. Everybody’s happy.

Among the brightest and best, Vivid Sydney puts the city’s iconic architecture under the spotlight for three weeks during the Australian winter, while Toronto’s Cavalcade of Lights has grown from a Christmas tree switch-on into a month-long extravaganza with Saturday night skating parties to live music on the outdoor rink.

iLight Marina Bay in Singapore, held in March and billed ‘Asia’s only sustainable light art festival’, Jerusalem’s Festival of Light… and Berlin’s, and Amsterdam’s, and Lyon’s Fêtes de Lumières… are among many other opportunities to trip the light fantastic.

In fact, the French invented the light and music festival known as ‘son et lumière’ which has its origins in 17th century Versailles and the grand fêtes thrown by King Louis XIV, who was an extravagant patron of the arts. Paul Robert-Houdin, curator of the Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley was the first man to turn the illumination of buildings into performance art, staging the world’s first modern son et lumiére in 1952. Today, no self-respecting French castle is without its own scintillating summer light festival.

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Spanish technical landscape artist Pablo Valbuena stole the limelight at Lumiere Durham with his captivating cathedral installation, Method. Giant spots flooded the 900-year-old world-heritage site with light, picking out every nuance of the Romanesque (and some say, Andalusian-inspired) architecture in a sequence synchronised to the peals of the bells.

above right
TECHNICOLOR CHURCH Westminster Abbey as you’ve never seen it before. French digital artist Patrice Warrener’s The Light of the Spirit was a scene stealer in 2016, picking out the West Gate’s 20th-century martyrs in bright primary colours, as if they had been hand-painted. This year, the grandmaster of polychromatic illumination returns with an exciting second installment.