Last night I was lucky enough to attend a press event for Leeds Light Night with Visit Leeds, and preview some of the stunning installations for this years’ festival. In previous years I’d admired some of the installations in passing but not had the chance to properly attend the festival, so I was thrilled to not only get a sneak preview, but also learn what it’s all about and what’s going to be happening over the next couple of days. Here’s your ultimate guide to Leeds Light Night including what it is, which installations you really shouldn’t miss, and of course where you should eat and drink when visiting Light Night.
What is Leeds Light Night?
Leeds Light Night is the largest arts and lights festival in the UK! Over two nights (10th and 11th of October 2019), the city will be illuminated by 70 different artworks, installations and performances put together by artists from all over the world. The landmarks and buildings that we know and love will be transformed into works of art, from the Leeds Civic Hall in Millennium Square, to Victoria Gardens outside the Town Hall, to a 35 metre stretch of street over at the Southbank. Oh, and it’s free to attend!
The festival has been running for 15 years and every year it gets better and better. There’s always a theme and this year it’s Mind, Body and Spirit, exploring all things related to the human body from the physical intricacies to our crazy old dreams. It’s the perfect excuse to finish work on time, grab a bite to eat and spend your evening wandering around Leeds City Centre experiencing the mesmerising spectacle of Light Night and enjoying the buzzing atmosphere that it creates.
What Not to Miss at Leeds Light Night
With 70 installations you’d have to walk very fast and plan extremely well to see them all! I think it’s always better to see less and really enjoy it than rush around trying to tick boxes, so let me tell you about a few Light Night highlights to help plan your evening.
If you only see one thing at Light Night made sure it’s the parade. This year it’s called ‘When Dreams Run Wild’ and you can tell just from that title that it’s going to be an interesting one! The parade starts at 7.30pm on the Headrow and lasts about an hour, and you can view the full route here. Expect monsters, LED drummers, dancers swinging above the crowds, audience participation and a sensory overload of music and light.
I have no doubt that ‘With Love’, created by French artist Franck Pelletier, will draw in serious crowds. A giant, beating heart outside of the Town Hall provides a perfectly Instagrammable spot and the opportunity to interact with the display. The purpose of the installation is to take the pulse of the city and it’s lovers, and you’re encouraged to step up with your partner and have your collective Beats per Minute measured and your perfect love song played based on the results.
This display is absolutely stunning – I couldn’t take my eyes off it! Created by Pani Pawlosky, an independent Polish visual artist, the installation involves an animated projection onto Leeds Civic Hall, located in Millennium Square. Telekinetic Rumours creates a dreamlike story designed to explore the flow of energy between mind, body and soul. Even in the rain it was beautiful, if not a little surreal, to watch!
Talk to the Skies
Approaching this display was the moment that I stopped hating on the heavy rain we had last night and suddenly appreciated the beauty it created when it interacted with this light display. Talk to the Skies is another interactive installation: you pick a colour (red, green or blue), approach the coloured speaker pod and talk to the sky! Your voice will be converted into light and shot up into the sky, and the rain made the beams of light even more stunning. Talk to the Skies has been created by ITHACA Studio from Brighton and you’ll find it at Park Square.
Arguably the most fun Light Night display, as this consists of musical, illuminated seesaws! Grab a friend, partner or friendly looking stranger, brave the wet seat from the rain (fingers crossed it stays dry over the next couple of days) and create light and sound simply by having fun on the seesaw. Wave-Field has been created by Lateral Office & CS Design, with sound by Mitchell Akiyama, and I can only imagine how much fun this would be following those Friday-after-work drinks!
Missed spin class this morning? Don’t worry, head to Briggate and take part in this unique light cycling challenge created by VENIVIDIMULTIPLEX from the Netherlands. Four bikes face each other under crossed arches made from thousands of LED lights and the aim is to race your fellow participants by pedalling as fast as you can to push the beam of light to the middle of the arches before everyone else.
Last year the fire breathing dragon projected onto the Queen’s Hotel, next to Leeds train station, was arguably the highlight of Light Night. This year’s projection is just as spectacular, if not more so, and is inspired by the human eye… the window to the soul! The animated display, created by projection mapping artists Ocubo from Portugal, shows the imagination and dreams of two characters and is incredibly captivating.
This very pleasant (see what I did there?!) display is another one that was even more beautiful in the rain, as the 35 metre long ground projection sparkled on the wet floor. This colourful and enchanting display can be found outside the Tetley on Hunslet Road and is inspired by the forthcoming development of the area which will soon be home to a new city park. Walk across the projection and look down at the swirling colours and patterns, designed to represent the many sensory experiences encountered when walking through an urban park. The display is by NOVAK, and they’ll be joining in the Illuminate Parade with their Walking Trees.
What Else Am I Excited to See?
Of course I haven’t seen everything that Leeds Light Night will be offering, so I’m excited to explore more of it over the next couple of nights. Here are a few things that I can’t wait to see:
- Silent Disco – who doesn’t love a silent disco? Head to Kirkgate Market for a boogie, and if you’re under 18 you can have a go at DJing with DJ School UK.
- Angels of Freedom – five unique angels will be situated at Victoria Gardens outside the Town Hall, and you’ll have the chance to step into place and give yourself wings and a halo for the perfect photo opportunity.
- Reflecting Holons – I saw this being set up inside the Town Hall and it looks like it’s going to be a beauty! Hanging giant water drops will capture the surrounding light and seem to glow, and any excuse to step inside the stunning Town Hall building is always welcomed.
- Light Knights – outside the Royal Armouries, 12-foot high illuminated knights will battle in the dark!
Eating and Drinking at Leeds Light Night
If you’re thinking of grabbing a bite to eat before or during Light Night, this section is for you.
Light Night Bites
The event has it’s own street food market! The main market is on Cookridge Street and has a huge selection of cuisines from all over the world. You’ll also find a range of vendors on Millenium Square, Leeds Dock, The Tetley, Tower Works and Leeds City College. Kirkgate Market is open late too!
If the street food market isn’t your thing, I have a couple of blog posts to help you decide where to stop for dinner:
For restaurants using local ingredients, more street food (but indoors!) and my tops picks for international cuisine, have a read of How to Eat Like a Local in Leeds City Centre.
For my favourite restaurants in Leeds divided into a whole host of categories, head over to The Best Restaurants in Leeds.
Hopefully this post has inspired you to visit Leeds Light Night, and given you some ideas to help you plan your evening! More information on Leeds Light Night can be found on their website, and there’s also a Light Night app that you can download for £1.99 with all proceeds going into supporting the event and keeping it free to attend. And of course I’m always happy to answer any questions if you want to get in touch in the comments or on social media.
Oh and make sure you use the hashtags #ArtInTheDark and tag @lightnightleeds on social media to spread the word! You can also tag me @adventureswithnell on Instagram or @adventures_nell on Twitter if you’ve used this guide to plan your evening and want to share the love.