Tuesday, 28 September 2010

What is Light Night Leeds?

There's been a bit of talk on Twitter from people who don't know what Light Night Leeds is; and as there are people coming from outside Leeds who are a bit in the dark (excuse the pun!) as well, I thought I'd give a bit of an overview.

Firstly, I can't really tell you what Light Night is. Not because it's a secret, but because it changes year on year. So I'd only really be able to tell you about this year's event after it had happened. That's a lovely thing about the Leeds Light Night, as it is so heavily driven by the people who take part.

Light Night Leeds is based on the Nuit Blanche event. It is now in its sixth year, and there are currently 11 cities in the UK who have Light Nights (Leeds was the first in the UK). Other cities are completely different to Leeds, with some having one or two big events, or taking the "light" part literally and using lasers and stuff. Leeds Light Night focuses on the artists and the people of Leeds. It asks for submissions and is open to anyone (obviously, as they took me!) What submissions come in form the basis of Light Night. Basically, it makes the whole city into a giant playground for the arts, and for the people of Leeds.

Light Night is spread over the whole of Leeds - from the university buildings and Hyde Park Picture House in the north to Round Foundry and Templeworks in the south. There are around 100 events going on, including theatre pieces, sound installations, art exhibits, bands, children's entertainment...and some really crazy stuff. How about visiting a crashed spaceship in the library, or going on a static rollercoaster in Victoria Gardens? What about a moving maze in Millennium Square? Light Night embraces all the different grassroots and established arts and culture in Leeds. There are a lot of events that you might stumble across, such as projections on buildings and theatre pieces that travel around the city centre, and there are set pieces in certain places (such as mine) that you can plan to go and see.

A lot of the fun of Light Night is that buildings open late, such as Leeds City Museum, and some buildings open that normally you wouldn't be able to get into, like the tunnels under the Town Hall. So it's a brilliant way to have a nosey about as well.

The thing that I think is best about Light Night is the way it embraces the people of Leeds. If you're not into art, you'll probably still enjoy the virtual spray painting in Millennium Square. If you're interested in Leeds history, why not check out the Underworlds tour from Leeds City Museum which fuses local architecture and history with that of ancient mythology. If you like music, drop by and see the sound on a wire piece in the Town Hall. If you hate all the arts, you can still get a free fortune cookie from around Little Woodhouse. Everybody likes cookies. Light Night is about celebrating the city and the people who live here. It's not trying to be a highbrow arts event (though there is high-end stuff going on), it's trying, and I think succeeds, in being a fun, varied way of linking up lots and lots (and lots!) of stuff that goes on in the city, and making it more accessible for everyone. It promotes what's great about Leeds, makes the city more inviting (don't worry too much about getting lost - you'll probably find a dancing urban nymph round the corner) and might just get a few people interested who weren't interested before.

Plus, don't forget that it is all free. Every event is free. The artists involved do it for free, the buildings that open late don't charge. Bands and performers and the people who will point you in the right direction for things all do it for free. Light Night Leeds is a night put on by the council, and the guys that run it work really hard on a tiny budget to put on over 100 events, with no charge.

So what have you got to lose? Come and play with your city.


  1. In theory, great. But l want to be in Holbeck, Hyde Park, Water front etc.... all at the same time so l dont miss anything - which is impossible. Instead l end up wandering aimlessly round town centre catching glimpse of events, it rains, l go home!
    Needs to happen over a whole weekend.

  2. The logistics of it happening over a whole weekend would make it unfeasible though I would think. Think of all the people who would have to give up more (unpaid) time, the additional costs of buildings being open, staffing etc. Plus the additional costs of materials from events going on for a much longer period. I don't think I'd be able to do it if it was a whole weekend, it's taken so much out of me already!

    The thing to remember as well is that a lot of it is a taster of what's going on already. Even though the events are put on for Light Night especially a lot of the people involved are also involved in other stuff around the year. So if there's something you're particularly interested in and miss, there's a good chance they'll be doing something else at some point in the future.

    Saying that, it is possible to go from Hyde Park to Holbeck, or vice versa, in the evening. I'm sure it's impossible to see everything, but you can see a fair amount, particularly if you grab the brochure (which you can download from the lightnightleeds website, or they're available around town the week before) and plan ahead. Last year we saw around 40 events, and that was only between 6pm and 10.30pm, and included a break for food. Maybe there should be a competition for who can see the most!

  3. I really like cheese and biscuits, dammit why isn't there any cheese and biscuit related things happening? They're just being cheeseandbiscuitist...!

  4. You have no qualms allowing creatives to showcase leeds for free do you? With a little cash incentive more could be achieved.
    What about spreading the same amount of events over a weekend?

  5. What a fantastic blog, Kirsty! A really great summary of what the event is about. There really is nothing quite like it.

    It is refreshing to see such a unique ethos to an event, where everyone gains but no money is exchanged. It is truly inclusive and independent.

  6. umm, cheeseandbiscuit person - bring your own cheese! maybe bring enough to share around, and make your own little light night event. Night of the Cheese!

    Anonymous person talking about my qualms. Sorry, I don't understand the first part of your comment. Regarding the cash incentive - I'm not sure where that would come from? There's not enough money to go around at the moment for existing events, let alone expanding events like Light Night. I think I've answered the weekend thing with my previous comment - even with the same number of events you physically have a longer period to run, which means more running costs, more manpower (of volunteers AND the people organising it), more goodwill from buildings/staff involved. Plus, part of the loveliness of Light Night is that there's so much, all at once, going on. It brings all the things that go on all the time together at once to highlight what a great arts movement we have here in Leeds. It's as much an awareness exercise as anything else. Like I said previously, if you can't make everything on Light Night, get in touch with the people involved in stuff you're interested in - most of us do events at other times of the year that aren't all on the same night.

    Helen, thank you for your comment! I'm glad you love Light Night, and I totally agree it's lovely to have something so inclusive. I know it's massively enriched my life.

  7. "What about spreading the same amount of events over a weekend?"

    Because then it would be would "Light night and a bit here and there over a weekend at a bit of a cost" which doesn't have the same ring to it!

  8. I for one would love the Night of Cheese event... however the council rejected the idea unfortunately in favour of the "Night of Being Slightly Mean to Kittens" event instead... apparently it's all the rage amongst those council types... boo hiss!

  9. Is that being slightly mean as in pointing at them then whispering amongst ourselves? I could get behind that event.

    Regarding the Night of Cheese - do it anyway! Nothing like a bit of guerilla gastronomic gluttony!

  10. It's worse than that, up in the council offices they basicly spend all day flinging frozen sausages at kittens... I think thats more than being slightly mean myself... bordering on the bit nasty...!

  11. hey, I work in a council office and I don't fling sausages at kittens! Only at my coworkers (who quite like it really).

  12. perhaps you've moved onto burger flinging instead... I spotted the deliberate lie in your previous statement though, everyone knows that nobody does any work in a council office!