Hello! Now that Halloween is over and done with its starting to feel a bit festive. One of my favourite events returns next weekend, and whilst it's not Christmassy it is one that gets me excited for winter. Lumiere Durham is on 16, 17, 18 and 19th November 2017 and it's brilliant.
It is a festival of light being held across the city, which returns to Durham every two years. We in the North East are mega lucky too as the only other cities to host it are Derry and London. It's absolutely FREE and having been the past two times it has been to Durham, I can honestly say its spectacular.
Despite this, I think there are a few things which out some people off visiting which is why I'm writing this post about how easy and brilliant it is to visit. Quick disclaimer, I'm not being paid and haven't been asked to write this post, I'm just one of those really annoying people who suggest things and then go on and on and on until people just do the thing I've mentioned. My friends are thrilled I now have a blog as it gives them a break from me 'helpfully' planning events for us.
All of the photos in this post (apart from the last one) are from Lumiere 2015. Kindly shared with me by my friend who just happens to be the best doctor ever, as well as generous with her pics. When we went last year it was raining and we only ended up taking two photos of the whole night!
What is Lumiere?
So it's a festival of light, with 29 installations of light, colour and creativity. The installations are all totally different to anything I've been to before. The closest thing I could compare it to is Enchanted Parks at Saltwell Park, but it has a different feel to it. Most of the installations are on a bigger scale than Enchanted Parks and I think designed to view individually rather than make up a bigger theme like they are at Saltwell. Both times I've visited I have been in awe at how incredible some of the installations are. Right at the bottom of this page you will see the hologram of a massive Elephant projected into the sky from the 2013 Lumiere. That was my first introduction to Lumiere and it was amazing (sadly my photos are not). From 2015 I have two stand out memories. The first was 2 huge whales illuminated and filled with air flying through the sky. The second was more of an immersive experience where we stumbled upon a 'Christmas house party' being held in the bus station. Set up in the middle of this industrial building was an old fashioned fireplace, carpet, Christmas tree with 80s tinsel and decorations. There was a band and dancers encouraging us all to join the party and dance around the living room. It was so surreal and absolutely brilliant. Don't worry if audience participation isn't for you as there were plenty of people just watching, but me, my sister, my toddler and his cousins we all had a brilliant unexpected dance around to a Status Quo song.
Every year is totally different, but you can find out about all of the upcoming installations here on the programme. I've tried not to look though as I want it all to be a surprise.
I think the biggest things holding people back from visiting Lumiere is the ticket situation. Part of the city centre are cordoned off and tickets are required to get into this bit between 4:30 and 7:30pm each evening. All of the tickets are sold out now, although limited tickets are being released at midday on Monday 13th November via this link.
What I really want to stress is that if you haven't got tickets it is still so worthwhile going. More than half of the 29 installations are outside of the ticketed area. They are located on a route which will probably take an hour to two to get around (depending on how many hot chocolate stops you make and how slow your kids are). You could head to the non ticketed areas only and still have a brilliant night. If you have toddlers then I think this could even make for a better night. The ticketed areas are normally very busy, whereas the non ticketed bits are much more spread out and A bit quieter.
The central area is only ticketed until 7:30pm so if you are desperate to see the spectacular show which is projected onto the Cathedral (inside the ticketed area) then you can join the queue and head in after 7:30pm. In previous years there have been long, long waits. So be prepared for that, although I have heard they have changed things slightly this year so hopefully it should move a bit quicker than in previous years.
If you have babies or toddlers then the official advice is to try and leave pushchairs and prams at home as it does get busy. I'm going to stray slightly from the party line here. If you are heading to the central ticketed bits then DO NOT bring a pushchair! It is busy in there and it'll be difficult to manoeuvre. Slings are pretty much the only sensible option in there.
However, if like us, you are planning to go and only view the installations outside the ticketed areas then I think taking a buggy will be fine. It's much less busy and actually some of the installations are a good 5 or 10 minute walk from each other so for us I'm confident that the double buggy will be better than slinging the smallest one and holding hands with the eldest.
If you head to the Gala Theatre area then they have maps, programmes and people around to help direct you as to where you can find all of the installations.
In 2013 when we visited we were childless and much more relaxed about these things (more relaxed about EVERYTHING) so we ignored all advice and drove in. Strangly it actually worked out fine and we managed to find a space, but I think we were arriving pretty late. I think we were lucky and I would not recommend driving into the city of you can help it.
In 2015 we used the park and ride. This is the suggested by the organisers as the best way to visit. You can find details of all of the park and ride sites here. Getting back in 2015 using the park and ride busses was really well organised, we probably needed to wait about 15 mins for the bus to get back and they were well signposted.
This year we are going to get the train in from Newcastle, they are pretty frequent and only take 15 minutes so I think it should hopefully work out well.
Obviously the weather is a massive factor to the enjoyment. When we went last year it poured down and despite having waterproofs it did spoil it a bit for us. I'd say to take something waterproof with you, have layers and layers on as it's more than likely going to be cold. Get yourself a programme early and work out what installations would be best if it does start to rain so you can head there quickly if it does start bucketing. The Christmas party in the bus station last year was perfect for us to take cover.
There are plenty of vans to buy food and hot drinks to warm up, but bring cash as most don't accept card. There is also a fair bit of tat which you can buy for the kids if you fancy it.
Should you go?
I think it's pretty obvious that it's a big fat YES from me that you should visit; it's mint, only happens once every two years and it's FREE. I love it and can't wait to visit!