Leeds - a city of light

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This week sees the return of the annual Leeds Light Night and this year it promises to be more spectuacular than ever. Grace Hammond reports.

Light Night Leeds returns to illuminate the city this weekend, with a programme of more than 50 free events featuring world-class artists, premieres and a host of new commissions. Local and international artists will transform Leeds’s buildings and striking public spaces, giving audiences the chance to see the city in a whole new light over two nights, on Thursday (Oct 6) and Friday (Oct 7).

The centre piece of this year’s programme is a new commission, The Phoenix in the Stone, created by brothers Rob and Matt Vale, whose company Illuminos was behind the popular Momentous display which transformed the Civic Hall into a vast, animated mechanical clock at 2014’s Light Night. Once again using the iconic building as their canvas, Illuminos has created a giant projection piece featuring the mythical bird which will represent the coming together of the four elemental forces of earth, water, air and fire; symbolising the different parts of Yorkshire working together, with Leeds at their heart.

“We were interested in returning to the same building with a completely different approach,” says Rob who studied in Leeds. “We wondered what it might be like to try to create a piece that was like a storytelling, but played out as a huge spectacle at the same time.” Rob and Matt are working with a specialist team to bring the large-scale display to life, using special effects, projectors, speakers and music by award-winning composer John Rea.

Now in its 12th year, Light Night – which drew crowds of more than 60,000 in 2015 – offers the chance to explore Leeds city centre at night whilst enjoying spectacular light projections, film, dance, music, theatre and street performances. Other new works include The Falls, created by artist Dave Lynch, a 100ft digital waterfall which will be projected onto the Art Deco Grade II listed Queens Hotel and set to a specially composed musical score.

The Bread Art Collective are taking up residency in the Trinity Leeds shopping centre to collect environmental data to interpret a piece of music accompanied by a skyscape entitled Today created by thousands of lights embedded within the centre’s intricate glass roof. The programme also brings a host of international talent to the city, including the UK premiere of Philippine artist Olivia D’aboville’s work The Giant Dandelion which will see a forest of 90 larger-than- life light flowers take root in the heart of the city centre. The flower heads are created using 9,000 recycled water bottles that are cut and connected to one another by a nylon weave and each flower lights up with an energy efficient globe.

Belgian artist, Tom Dekyvere’s Apparatus Florius will illuminate Park Square, one of the city’s major public squares with a light installation featuring giant geometric patterns that grow and intersect.

International artist collective and Lumen prize winners 2015, Squid Soup, will showcase Light Water, Dark Sky an immersive large-scale 3D installation, made up of 6000 individually programmable lights that pulsate and change colour with their surroundings, floating on a pontoon at Leeds Dock.

Other key events including a trail of cyclists adorned with lights, and The Indestructible Reef, a series of glowing sculptures by artist Alison M Smith, created using recycled materials crafted to mimic organic forms.

“Light Night is one of our city’s most popular and exciting cultural events,” says councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council. “Year after year, it continues to raise the bar, making arts and culture engaging, accessible and fun and creating some unforgettable images and memories.”

October 6 and 7. All events are free to attend, but some may require advance booking. For details visit www.whatson.leeds.gov.uk/lightnight