By Flossie Palmer, Features Editor
The renowned Bristol Light Festival makes its return this week after a one-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Between 1-6 March, the city will be lit up as a spectacle by captivating light artworks, following a trail around Bristol’s most popular locations, including Park Street, city centre and the Harbourside.
Bristol Light Festival’s creative team have designed a total of 14 artworks to display at this year’s festival, including the recently revealed iconic Bristol phrase, ‘Alright My Luvver’ being lit up in Castle Park as an ode to the city with its Bristolian spirit. While many may have mistaken We The Curious science museum’s infamous planetarium for a disco ball, for six days it will become exactly that, projecting light across the square in a dancefloor-like fashion.
Most of the 14 artworks are making their first appearance in Bristol this year, marking the festival’s return to the city with a refreshing new line-up of creative talent. Visitors will be able to follow the light trail through the city from 5pm-10pm and will be able to experience a few unexpected places being illuminated in amongst Bristol’s most iconic landmarks.
Bristol Light Festival also aims to highlight the best of the UK’s artistic talent. Katherine Jewkes, the Creative Director of the Festival, told Epigram that ‘This year, we have a programme that feels really special and that is reflective of the city’s creative spirit. All 14 artworks are either completely new commissions or installations that will be making their Bristol debut.’
The creative team have clearly placed the Bristol community at the forefront of their mission, as Jewkes added that, ‘We have created spaces for people to dance, play and explore the city – with a few surprises along the way.’
‘Visitors can take in each installation across one evening or come across multiple nights and really explore the city. We cannot wait to welcome everyone to Bristol Light Festival and fill the city with colour and light.’
Installations at the festival in 2020 included ‘Neighbours’, an animated light display centred around Banksy’s ‘Well Hung Lover’ graffiti art on Park Street, which proved a favourite among visitors and is making a return this year. Aiming to offer an insight into the lives of those next door, the artwork is intended as a celebration of Bristol’s residents and the diverse community of the city, while also exploring the unique relationship we have all had with our homes throughout the pandemic.
Other prominent artworks include ‘Office Party’ designed by artist Parker Heyl and lighting designer Michael Wagner. Cheese Lane Shot Tower, located in the Redcliffe and Temple area, will transform an office block by day into a party-house by night, as light projections turn the dim windows into a rainbow of colour. Sequenced light choreography will also be used to explore the idea that our workspaces may come to life in our absence after all employees have gone home.
Similar to ‘Neighbours,’ ‘Office Party’ recognises the large shift in attitudes towards everyday aspects of life after the pandemic, such as our workplaces. Post-pandemic, working from home has become more common than ever, aided by our new reliance on Zoom and other at-home technologies.
While the festival is returning as the UK is climbing out of the depths of the pandemic, it would be inevitable for it not to acknowledge the effects Covid-19 continues to have on our lives. However, the festival has achieved this perfectly with its playful and energetic outlook on post-pandemic life, encouraging locals, visitors, and the student population to take to Bristol’s streets and reflect on the past two years, in which the festival’s absence has certainly been felt.
Vicky Lee, Head of Bristol City Centre Business Improvement District (BID), told Epigram about the festival’s heart-warming aspirations, stating that welcoming visitors both new and old to the city will allow Bristol to show off what it really has to offer. After launching a recovery programme for Bristol’s businesses in 2020, the BID hopes that the festival will bring an influx of excitement and adventure to the city’s streets. With its diverse community and plethora of independent shops, bars, and restaurants to explore, what’s not to love?
The festival also presents the perfect opportunity for Bristol students to get to know their university city better. Whether you are a fresher or a well-traversed final year, the festival’s trail allows you to either explore somewhere new, or make a special visit to some of your favourite spots a little further out from your daily commute to campus. As your university workload begins to build, perhaps now is a great excuse to take a breath of fresh air and a night off to immerse yourself in the city’s colourfully lit streets.
Above all, the festival presents a new sense of hope for Bristol as it continues to thrive as a hub of energy, diversity, and art post-pandemic. As Vicky Lee stated, ‘We hope Bristol Light Festival will be a mark of brighter times ahead and showcase Bristol as the vibrant, playful and creative city that we know and love.’
Featured Image: Andrew Pattenden / Bristol Light Festival
Will you be going to Bristol Light Festival this week?