First look at spectacular Durham Lumiere 2021

From a merry band of dancing frogs in Market Place to a Day of the Dead-inspired show stopper at Durham Cathedral, Lumiere has returned to Durham in spectacular fashion.

The bi-annual celebration of light art opens to the public from November 18-21, but the Echo went along for a sneak peek at some of the installations lighting up the night sky in the city centre ahead of the main event.

There are 37 installations in total with nine within the ticketed area in the centre of the historic city.

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Sure to be one of the stand out pieces in this year’s festival is the awe-inspiring In Our Hearts Blind Hope, which has transformed the facade of Durham Cathedral into an immersive experience.

A first look at Durham Lumiere 2021. Photos by Ian McClelland for JPI Media

Set on a 12 minute loop, the incredible light show by Palma Studio is inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday and features soaring birds, flickering candles, butterflies and more.

Like many pieces in this year’s event, it’s been created in response to the pandemic and celebrates togetherness and the collectivity of humankind.

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At the back of the cathedral City of Light, City of Stories has turned the College Green into an enchanting city of lanterns created by community groups across Durham.

Meanwhile, in Market Place The Froggs, created by French artists Groupe LAPS, depicts a lively rock ‘n’ roll band of LED figures.

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The spires of Durham Cathedral lit up by "In Our Hearts Blind Hope" display by artist Zsolt Balogh, taking us on a journey from reflection to celebration, from death to rebirth. All photos by Ian McClelland for JPI Media

This year’s festival, in a festival first, spans beyond the usual area with Sunderland’s Penshaw Monument hosting an artwork for the first time. Visible from up to 20 miles away, A Telling of Light transforms the distinctive structure as part of a special new commission which responds to the pandemic.

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As part of the wider festival, Seaham Marina hosts Go With The Flow / Swim Against The Tide, a large-scale LED text sculpture by Tim Etchells, pairing two well-known phrases, which seem to contradict each other, hinting at the social struggles of compliance and resistance.

Helen Marriage, Director of Artichoke, who produce Lumiere, said: “Each time we produce Lumiere in Durham I am amazed at the wonderful collaboration with our commissioners Durham County Council, and the sense of ownership by the local community.

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"Everyone I’ve come across here has been so proud and excited that we are back – against all the odds. This year’s Lumiere will be even more special, and a celebration of sorts. It is a moment for people to come out and enjoy being together again.

Durham Cathedral lit up with the "In Our Hearts Blind Hope" display by artist Zsolt Balogh, of Palma Studios pictured in front of his fantastic creation.
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“Lumiere continues to grow deep roots. For the first time, a brand-new programme of major installations is taking the festival out across County Durham, and further embedding a countywide participation programme that has involved thousands of local residents and young people in Lumiere projects over the last decade.

“In 2021 alone, Lumiere has worked with 685 individuals including mental health service users, veterans and young carers, and 25 schools across five Learning & Participation projects.

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“As ever, it is the artists that sit at the heart of Lumiere with their ability to transform the everyday and to reflect the world back to us in new ways. In this Lumiere programme, they bring magic and escapism as well as reflections on pressing issues and messages of hope for a different future.”

::Ticketing details

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The Froggs, LED rock 'n' roll band invades Market Place, Durham.

Lumiere is open each night between 16:30 and 23:00. (County programme 16:30 to 22:00). The festival is completely free to attend and 29 of the 37 installations are always accessible without a ticket. In a change from previous years, the controlled City centre area of Lumiere will be ticketed for the entirety of the festival opening times every night. This is to manage audience numbers as part of measures in place to offer a COVID secure experience.

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Digital ticketing in the controlled central Lumiere zone

A timed ticket will be necessary to visit the controlled central Lumiere zone at any time between 16:30 and 23:00 when the festival closes. There is no time limit once inside the controlled zone. Tickets will be available for the following time slots: 16:30, 18:00, 19:00, 20:00, 21:00, 22:00.

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Priority booking for local residents

All tickets will be available online at

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Parking restrictions and road closures

Durham Cathedral lit up with the "In Our Hearts Blind Hope" display by artist Zsolt Balogh, of Palma Studios.
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Letters have been posted to residents and businesses in affected areas with information about parking restrictions and road closures.

The "City of Light, City of Stories" lantern Display ligths up College Green.
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Durham Cathedral lit up against a brooding County Durham skyline with the "In Our Hearts Blind Hope" display by artist Zsolt Balogh, of Palma Studios.
The "City of Light, City of Stories" lantern Display lights up College Green.