Durham’s Diwali

The 2011 Lumiere festival, held in Durham (England), is one of the highlights of the city’s calendar. It’s a great chance to explore some imaginative works of modern art as installations are put up around the city. Each evening the installations are lit up and you are invited to walk around a transformed landscape. The whole event is one big festival of light which transforms a cold, dark northern town, being thrown into the grip of winter, into a buzzing little creative metropolis.

The "Crown of Light" by Ross Ashton, Robert Ziegler, and John Del'Nero (UK) projected the Lindisfarne Gospels onto Durham Cathedral. This was a marvellous and atmospheric achievement, bringing to life one of the country's most loved and oldest cathedrals.

"I Love Durham" by Jacques Rival (France) transformed the controversial statue of the Marquess of Londonderry in Durham Market Square into a giant child's snowglobe. This was a playful and tongue-in-cheek exhibit, bringing out the inner child in everyone.

"I Love Durham"

"Pimp Pallets" by David Batchelor (UK) breathed new life into industrial waste. Dotted around Saddler Street, they provided food for thought on our wasteful society and what we think is aesthetically pleasing

"The Wonderwood" by Walter Holt (UK) lit up the woodland around the river. Green lighting on autumnal trees was really wonderful, as it made you believe that it was spring already!

"Les Voyageurs" by Cédric Le Borgne (France) were a series of surreal, supernatural sculptures of figures flying along the South Bailey.

Durham's answer to the Mermaid of Copenhagen?

"Splash" by Peter Lewis (Canada) was conceptually spectacular. He transformed an otherwise aesthetically ugly bridge (but we should remember that Kingsgate Bridge does hold an award for being a "Mature Concrete Structure") into a sight of natural beauty. If only it could be such a stunning waterfall all year round!

Enchanting as these installations are, I couldn’t help but feel that it was not modern art that stole the show on the evening I attended. There was a huge number of visitors that night, but they all demonstrated the art of queuing. Now, the British are well-known for turning queuing into a fine art, but I think that the level of patience and mutual consideration was exceptional. While we queued for up to an hour to see some installations, the crowd never pushed or rushed along; there was always a sense of care for your fellow visitor. And when I queued for over an hour down by the river banks, strangers helped each other out when coping with prams and small children on a muddy riverbank. It was this sense of community spirit that was a credit to everyone involved, and was the best work of art that evening.

P.S. Many thanks to Ms Simi Sehgal for being highly informative on the different spellings of “Diwali” 🙂

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