illuminating York light festival supported by Arts Council England is returning to York

Transforming aspects of the city through the use of light – that’s the promise from organisers of the eleventh illuminating York , supported by Arts Council England, which returns to the city from Wednesday 26 to Saturday 29 October 2016.  This year’s event features seven newly commissioned artworks using light, an expanded light trail and a host of ‘fringe’ events to create evenings to remember across York’s historic streets.

This year’s festival will see new venues host specially commissioned artworks, with outdoor installations highlighting some of York’s most intriguing buildings and spaces, and indoor illumination using projection, colour and light to showcase very different aspects of York’s heritage, from the industrial past of National Railway Museum’s workshops to the interior of Holy Trinity Church in Goodramgate.  Internationally-renowned artists such as Jason Bruges Studio, Heinrich and Palmer, Helen Maurer and Studio PSK will contribute new artworks to this year’s event.

“This year’s illuminating York has been developed to take visitors on an exploration of the city after dark, with key venues hosting our newly commissioned artworks, three architectural lighting schemes around the city in partnership with the Society of Light and Lighting, and illuminated bunnies in 50 shop and business windows throughout the city centre in our own trail,” comments one of illuminating York’s curators, Hazel Colquhoun.  “We’re being joined in the ‘fringe events’ this year by other venues opening late on specific nights with illumination-themed events and activities, from Fairfax House and The Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre to night time opening of the City Walls so that people can return for two or more nights for a different illuminating York experience.”

Eight key highlights in this year’s illuminating York will be:

York Minster – Jason Bruges Studio

After a triumph lighting The Shard in London on New Year’s Eve, Jason Bruges Studio will become ‘light masons’ within the cavernous nave of York’s gothic cathedral.  Using only white light and particulate suspended in the air, visitors will experience spectacular choreographed spaces carved out of light.  This is the only paid-for commission, with standard admission prices of £8 for adults and £3.50 for children, which also includes admission to the East End exhibition and Chapter House.  Each ticket is allocated a time slot and family ticket deals are available.  Tickets are available from York Theatre Royal and York Minster box offices.  Early bird discounts are also available until 9 October, priced at £6 and £3.  Family tickets are also available.

York St John University – David Ogle’s ‘Lumen’

A new venue for illuminating York, the historic quad at York St John’s Lord Mayor’s Walk campus will be occupied by a forest of light.  Visitors can walk amongst skeletal coloured luminescent trees, to experience the unusual light and shade cast by their glowing branches, with further exhibitions and performances by York St John Students to discover around the campus.  Free.

National Railway Museum (NRM) – Heinrich and Palmer

Pioneers of large-scale illuminated art, Heinrich and Palmer turn their attention to the Workshop at NRM, creating an experience that brings together projection, light drawings, film and sound in the working heart of the museum, where engines are maintained and restored.  Visitors will also see the return of Locos in a Different Light , at the NRM, where the halls and locomotives are transformed with colour and light by theatre lighting design students.  Free.

Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate – Helen Maurer

Secrets in the stained glass inspire the displays inside this historic building as Helen Maurer creates a compelling installation using light, glass and mirrors to project shape and colour onto the walls and ceiling.  Free.

Shambles – ‘Orbit’ by Studio PSK

Regularly voted one of Britain’s most picturesque streets, Studio PSK has designed ‘Orbit’ which will be installed along the entire length of the world-famous Shambles.  Arcs of light will revolve above the heads of the visitors encircling views of the iconic street, prompting them to look up from the historic street. Free.

King’s Square – ‘Loopy Lou’ by Rémi Brun

“Loupy Lou” presents a skipping figure, whose movements are created by just a few LED lights. In daylight, Brun’s sculpture looks like an abstract wire construction, but after dark, the LED lights that dance around create a depiction of a skipping girl, based on the artist’s daughter playing. Remi Brun lives and works in Paris and this is the first time his work has been shown in a UK light festival. Free.

Society of Light & Lighting Projects – various locations

The Society of Light & Lighting– the top industry body for those working in the lighting sector – will be working with schools around York to create lighting schemes for three venues, including parts of the city walls and St Michael-le-Belfry.  Free.

Bunny Light Trail – various locations between the major installations

Making a return after its debut last year will be the popular Bunny Light Trail, in collaboration with York contemporary design store Snow Home, where 50 bunny lights customised by artists and creatives will be placed in shop and business windows across the city centre.

Adding to the main programme will be a packed festival Fringe programme with venues across the city taking part, from candlelit tours of Fairfax House to Gregorian Latin Chant with ‘Illuminations by Visions of York’ in All Saints North Street Church.

Kate McMullen, Head of Tourism, Make It York, said, “illuminating York is unlike any other light festival.  What’s unique about York’s festival is that the artists have spent time in the city and the different venues to create artworks that are designed specifically around these individual and historic York locations.”

“Exhibits from previous years have gone on to win awards when they are displayed in other venues around the world, so this is a chance to see the premier of these stunning works in the location that inspired their creation.  illuminating York is one of the reasons York was able to secure the coveted UNESCO City of Media Arts status – and other cities turn to York for inspiration.”

illuminating York is managed by Make It York on behalf of a city-wide steering group, chaired by Liz Page, Historic Properties Director (North) – English Heritage.  For more information visit