I was asked today why I wanted to take part in Light Night, and why I evidently love it so much, particularly as I've only been once. Well... I could tell you about how it brings communities together, or it advocates the arts, or it promotes the individuality of Leeds, but for me, personally, it’s a little more poetic than that.
Do you remember when you were at school, and your hormones were raging and everything was either amazing or the end of the world? Remember when, in a particularly vulnerable moment, one of the popular kids spoke to you, a teacher took more than one minute to suss you out, or an older sibling’s friend was nice to you? That overwhelming, all-encompassing, head over heels, falling in love, they’re-the-only-one-who-understands-you feeling you got? That’s how I feel about Light Night.
I first visited Light Night in 2009, a mere two weeks after I moved to Leeds. I didn’t know Leeds and I didn’t know anyone in Leeds (apart from my husband), and I was feeling unsettled and like a fish out of water. I got lost nearly everyday, and my new job wasn't what I expected. I missed my friends from "back home" and I was scared I'd never fit in "up here".
I’d seen Light Night on the website before I even moved here and it sounded fun, so I grabbed a booklet and planned. I like planning. I highlighted everything I was interested in in one colour, and passed it to my husband for him to highlight with another. I marked out on a map where everything was, and worked up a timetable. There was even a spreadsheet in time used/enjoyment. We had strict routes to follow, and it was all drawn up into a handy “Light Night” pack that would fit in my pocket. Then on the actual night I wrapped up warm, donned my beret (it was an Art Event, after all), and dragged my husband out.
First we got lost. Then the performance we’d turned up for either weren’t there, or we’d turned up to the wrong place. Then “while we were there” it was decided (not by me, I had a schedule) to drop in on a couple of events. Then we were hungry, so detoured to a pizza shop.
We took in about 30-40 events that night, some because we stumbled upon them whilst trying to find somewhere else, and some because you just couldn’t miss them (like giant projections and a travelling theatre). I never got to see the “sea of bunnies” (it was something like a sea of bunnies, I can't remember exactly), but I made a lego animal instead. We lost all sense of direction, but we found half a dozen shortcuts to places we now visit regularly. We felt safe and comfortable in wandering around a strange city because wherever you went there was a Chinese dragon or a vintage tea party.
Much like that first love, where you start with high hopes and it rarely works out how you expect, Light Night wasn’t what I imagined at all. Rather than Gone With The Wind, I got High School Musical. But for that first night, because of the people involved, Leeds grabbed my hand and dragged me dancing. And just like the first love of your teenage years, it’s something I’ll never forget, and I hope never fades.