So take one city – Leeds – a Friday night and children and it is not generally going to be a good mix, however tonight the centre of the city was taken over in the annual Light Night. Now I’ve not been able to go before as for some reason it has always fallen on a weekend that I can’t do but me and the kids were well up for tonight and hoped it would be something akin to the incredible Overworlds and Underworlds earlier in the year. The theme this year was Dead of Night and it was great right from the off to see people dressed up as witches, zombies etc getting odd looks from those we were sharing the city streets with tonight who were out looking for other entertainment.
There were over 50 events across the city in buildings, art galleries, theatres, museums, dance studies and public spaces with a variety of the cities artists and performers coming together to create a light mosaic of activity across the city centre. It was impossible to cover it all and we decided not to go with a plan but just to wander and see what we came across, which may not have been the best philosophy but gave a happy randomness to the whole affair.
We kicked off in the Howard Assembly Rooms for the devils jukebox which had deckchairs scattered randomly around, 3 small stage areas a jukebox in the middle and red and white lights changing the illumination within the space. Orchestral musicians then alternated around the different areas playing and depending on where you happened to be sat they might be right in front of you or you could have had your back to them. It was a beguilingly whimsical start but we fancied something outdoors so headed over to millennium square. Now feeding kids could have been tricky, after all the city is not great for family friendly eating particularly on a Friday night, but the organisers had got things covered with some great quality independent street food stalls, NoFishyBusiness already has a great following and their lemon, lime and chili batter was a thing of wonder. There was also Indian Street food, Wood fired pizza courtesy of the PizzaPod, Spanish beef stew etc so plenty to choose from and a great tea, coffee and cake stall VWLulabelle
Fed and watered we came across the hand of time and the time hunter meandering around the square before the darkness fell
Next stop took us round by the art gallery where Bhangra dancers were strutting their stuff before we headed over to the town hall steps where as the clock struck the hour mark a troupe of zombies came down the steps to do some aerobics to Back to Life, Thriller and What’s that Coming Over the Hill. Bizarre and hilarious in equal measure but put a smile on everyone’s faces.
What was so good for me about the night is that the buildings that are usually shut in the evening all threw their doors open, so it was great to go into the City Art Gallery which had more people in it than I’ve ever seen. We came across a large inflatable tent where you had to squeeze through an entrance (designed to keep light out) and inside you could create light drawings which you did by shining torches onto yourself and the light was reflected up on a screen. The picture (below) we created won’t look like anything but I can tell you we had huge fun making it. We then looked at the properties of light through diffraction and created drawings on this huge see through screen. All good fun.
The Carriageworks contained a treasure hunt, the chance to have your photo taken with a stuffed animal ! and the projection at the top of the post as well as numerous other things that we didn’t get round to checking out as we were off to the City Museum, again how great to have something that would normally be shut open and packed with people having a look around. It was here that something really struck home to me and that is that light illuminates but we can be illuminated in other ways as well, through knowledge for example or story telling both historic and personal. So here we found classical stories of the ancient world brought to life and one of my favourite parts of the evening which was the ever creative Paper Birds Theatre company. They were getting you to draw an image of your hand(s) and write something about that hand, the journey it had been on and then it was hung on the washing line while at the same time they were interviewing people. They were then reading out the hand stories and reciting the interviews. Sounds odd but it was great what people had written, some very personal stuff that really did illuminate – powerful stuff.
Tiredness was by now taking hold so we left the city to it’s darkness and lights and headed home. We barely scratched the surface of all that was going on but again how brilliant it was to see the city turned into a canvas for the creative people who live and work here to show us where we live in a different light.