Tuesday, 28 September 2010
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.