No-one then can have anticipated the volume of happy festival goers queuing to cross the Peace Bridge to visit the Lumiere events around Ebrington Square last weekend.
Lumiere was a four-day festival of lights, part of the massive Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 programme of events. The event was run by Artichoke, a company that specialises in large-scale light festivals.
The Peace Bridge was central to the programming strategy to site events on both sides of the River Foyle, says Helen Marriage of Artichoke.
“Obviously there’s a faith and political divide between the two sides,” she says.
“So having the Peace Bridge was a great excuse to programme really substantial work on the Waterside in the hope that the people from the Cityside would use the bridge and explore areas they had not felt particularly comfortable visiting.”
One of the most beautiful works of the festival was on the bridge itself. Cédric le Borgne’s Les Voyageurs featured a series of soaring ethereal figures, lit up in white, suspended on either side of the bridge.
But Compagnie Carabosse’s spectacular Fire Garden in St Columb’s Park was undoubtedly what drew most across the river. Marriage had staged this type of event previously in Durham, but considers it especially profound in Derry.
“To do something with fire and flame in Northern Ireland that was peaceful and not aggressive or about hostility, that was really important to us. That there was something in the programme that said, ‘Fire — it can be OK’.” The event proved so popular that an extra night was added, after finance was sourced at the last minute.
All 17 events in the Lumiere programme were outdoors and were free to attend.
Most lived up to the city’s new catchphrase of ‘LegenDerry’, none more so then Tim Etchells’ A Stitch in Time, text spelled out in giant lettering across the top of the old Rosemount Shirt Factory. It is hoped to retain this sculpture as a permanent fixture.
Arnotts store was the backdrop to Voyage, a large-scale digital projection commissioned from UK company Novak. This magnificent spectacle presented a visual narrative inspired by Jules Verne, accompanied by a bespoke musical score by Ed Carter.
The commissioning scheme for local artists ensured the inclusion of home-grown talent in the programme.
The Empty Plinth on the city walls previously housed a statue of Rev George Walker. A single pillar of light projecting into the heavens now occupies the site, symbolising hope for the future. The site may well continue as an art space, similar to the Fourth Plinth initiative in London’s Trafalgar Square.