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Blog: The Lights Of Lumiere

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On Sunday night The Items In My Exhibition and I headed into London Actual to see Lumiere, a weekend-long festival featuring sculptures of light being set up around town. I was only aware of it because the aforesaid Posters In My Promotion had mentioned it so expected us to be the only people there, but HOW WRONG I WAS. As we walked out of St Pancras Station we instantly saw a MASSIVE crowd hanging around the Light Cage Thing that's always stood there. There were loads of sculptures along the walk from Kings Cross to Central St Martins and there were THOUSANDS of people out to see them. It was incredible! It felt like being at a FESTIVAL except a) in central London b) without pumping music and c) without any food or merchandising stalls. It was WEIRD in that respect - I'm so used to being inundated with LOUD MUSIC and FOOD STALLS at big events, there to TELL me what fun I'm having, that their ABSENCE feels even louder. I'm also used to being BOSSED AROUND by "security" but, for the most part, the Information People were cheery, helpful and nice (they were volunteers, we discovered) and, as a result, the huge crowds tended to sort ourselves out.

We stomped up to Granary Square and then inside the Central St Martins building, which is LOVELY. There was one exhibit in there - Litre Of Light - and it had a MASSIVE queue as you had to walk through it. Everybody was DELIGHTFULLY Modern British about it as we a) queued b) MOANED about queuing and c) took photographs of it. MAN there will be a lot of crappy photographs on Instagram - almost EVERYONE was taking pictures. As The Film In My Nikon remarked, everyone was concerned with the EVIDENCE, not the EXPERIENCE. All the picture taking meant it took FOREVER to get into the actual exhibit but, when we did, there was LOADS of room as everyone stood still taking their carefully framed Crappy Pictures, holding everyone else back, and then moved straight on as soon as they'd done!

Outside we saw a GRATE thing called Spectra 3 which was SPOOKY like a weird alien FLOWER moving round and/or a radar dish. We wandered further round, enjoying the general air of JOLLITY but also getting COLD. It was COLD!

A stroll and a tube rider later we emerged at Oxford Circus for the NEXT bit. Here the atmosphere was slightly different, as huge chunks of ROADS had been closed off, so you got to wander down the middle of Regents Street without fear of DOOM. There were some AMAZING things here - a huge floating jellyfish/comet thing called London 1.8 and some flying fish. It was slightly UNREAL being there, with these AMAZING THINGS happening above us, surrounded by happy people, all just off Oxford Street!

We went for some tea at Tibits and took the chance to look at the mini shrine to David Bowie just below the "Ziggy Stardust" plaque on Heddon Street. "I think he did the cover of one of his albums here", said a Young Person. "Yes", I thought. "Ziggy Stardust maybe?" It was TOUCHING to see the care that had gone into it all, and The Spiders From My Mars commented on the fact that people always seem to need a PLACE to GO to to express grief at times like this. Maybe it's because that's where they know they'll find other people who feel the same?

Anyway, we soon set off again and saw loads more AMAZING stuff. We went to look at an ELEPHANT being projected onto an archway (Elephantastique) which was, you know, ALL RIGHT, until you walked under the arch, turned round, and saw that the elephant's ARSE was being projected on the other side! This wasn't mentioned in any of the publicity and there was no HINT that it would be the case, so we found ourselves GRINNING in the company of a small crowd of DELIGHTED people, as ever taking photographs.

I know I MOANED about people taking photographs earlier, but it came in REALLY handy for this bit. As we walked down slightly less crowded side streets round Piccadilly we found that the easiest way to spot more sculptures was to look for the little groups of people with their cameras out. When we got to St James Square we were able to use this technique to spot the FLYING PEOPLE in The Travellers, which was GRATE.

The nicest thing about it all though was the experience of wandering round the streets, free of traffic, with loads of other people out having a happy, unsoundtracked, non-merchandised, lovely time. It was SORT OF like the Edinburgh Festival and SORT OF like New Year's Eve in a small town, a communal experience of PLEASANTRY at night time. It was so nice that, here and there, strangers were talking to each other. In LONDON!!!

We finished up by walking through and incredible scene of GIANT FAIRY LIGHT PLANTS in Leicester Square and then touching the actual Centre Point Lights which had been moved to Trafalgar Square. When we saw them I thought "I really want to touch them, so I can say i DID when they're put back on top of Centre Point" and, looking round, I noticed I was not alone in this thought.

We hopped back on the tube home COLD but full of DELIGHT. What I thought was going to be a brief look at some public art turned into a HUGE communal experience, totally different from Normal London and UNFORGETTABLE. Can we have it back again next year please?

posted 20/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett

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