Durham Lumiere: A look back over years gone by

After a two year break Durham will light up once again, quite literally, as the Lumiere Festival returns.

The four-day event starts on November 18th and ends on the 21st. It is open each night from between 4.30pm and 11pm and tickets are free, however you must book them through the Lumiere website and are capped at six per household.

To get you in the mood, here is a look back through the archives of the landmark installations.


This was the year the first Lumiere festival took place in Durham, it has been recommissioned by Durham County Council every two years since.

More than 75,000 people attended the four day event in 2009. The central exhibit was Durham Cathedral illuminated with projected images from the Lindisfarne Gospels.

There were 22 installations, including eight enormous pendulums in the vaulted ceiling of the Cathedral swinging back and forth, a spectacular fire display from French company La Salamandre, and a collaboration between prisoners at HMP Durham and artist Ron Haselden to produce a series of illuminated artworks in Crown Court Gardens.

Durham Lumiere first launched in 2009, attracting 75,000 visitors. Credit: Artichoke/Durham County Council


By 2011, the city wide art show grew to a significantly larger size, attracting more than 150,000 visitors and generating £4.3 million for the local economy.

Peter Lewis’ 'Splash' turned Kingsgate footbridge into a huge illuminated waterfall; Compagnie Carabosse captivated audiences bringing flaming mechanical structures and flickering lanterns made from miners vests to the inside of Durham Cathedral and its grounds; whilst at the Market Place, Jacques Rival’s 'I Love Durham' housed the Marquess of Londonderry statue in a giant snow globe.


Crowds had grown again by 2013, now up to 175,000 people descended onto the city to see highlights including a 3D projection of a walking elephant installed over the Elvet Bridge.

Organisers estimated that it brought in £5.8 million in economic benefits, with 20% of visitors travelling from outside of the North East (just over half came from within County Durham).


This year’s festival footprint spread outside of the city centre area for the first time. Half of the 26 artworks were located away from the centre, to spread growing crowds.

Novak’s projected story, Fool’s Paradise, was best viewed from outside the central area and you had to take a stroll along the river to catch Janet Echelman’s aerial sculpture 1.26 Durham, which floated over the Wear.


The festival returned to Durham for the fifth time in November 2017 where the star attraction was an installation by French artist Catherine Garret who was challenged to create an illusion of a whale in the River Wear.


In 2019, the event turned 10 and had become a staple for residents and tourists - Durham County Council announced that over a million people had ogled the illuminated artworks since the events inception in 2009. Of course, hitting the milestone anniversary came with celebration.

This was the biggest yet, with 37 installations spread around the city, including the return of past favourites like the snow globe and the whale.