Lighting up Leeds

The Light Night festival in Leeds may have been running for 12 years now, but being new to Yorkshire it was the first time we had experienced the visual feast.

This year’s festival marked the first time Light Night had been held over two days and it didn’t seem to dilute the crowds either. Nor did the fact that the installations are dispersed right across the city.

At each place, no matter what time of the night, if there was something on there were plenty of people there.

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The exhibits ranged from the huge to the tiny, from the extravagant to the understated. There were vast projections on the facades of the Civic Hall and The Queens Hotel, but there were also the delicate-looking dandelions made from recycled bottles in Merrion Gardens.

No matter what the size and the scope or the expense of the individual installations, they were all simply fantastic and an enormously well-received welcome into autumn.

There were also the performances. We missed the fire show, although we’ve seen some amazing videos on instagram and were astounded at the speed at which the performers spun blazing wicks around themselves.

But we did catch the Spark! drummers who (somehow) managed to stay in time while dancing around in their spangly leotards and performing some amazing mime comedy. We also caught a performance of BREAD at Trinity, which set the glass ceiling’s twinkly lights in time with some interesting conceptual music.

Through the night, and we only did go on the one night, we managed to fit so much into a short space of time but we really did save the best for last.

SquidSoup’s Light Water, Dark Sky was based in the already-impressive surrounds of Leeds Dock. We’ve walked around the dock many, many times but this was the first time we had ever stood in the middle of the waterways.

Not that we had any particular interest in getting wet feet – we were stood on a fair-sized pontoon in the middle of the dock.

With hundreds of lights dangling on ropes, suspended from a frame built on the pontoon, it was like standing in the middle of a jungle with thick vines draped all around you. Only the vines lit up, flashed and changed colour in time to the beautiful music played into wireless headphones.


For a few minutes in a cold dark October night at Leeds Dock it felt like you were somewhere else, it wasn’t cold, it certainly wasn’t dark, and you were surrounded by lots of other people of all ages and backgrounds thoroughly enjoying themselves.

And that was the real magic of the evening – the fact that thousands, tens of thousands, of people all got together on a chilly autumn evening and had a great time. None of the venues charged for the shows, there was no pushing and shoving and there was no rowdy and disrespectful behaviour (that we saw anyway).

By the end of the evening we left looking forward to next year’s big light up, but one thing is for sure – we’ll be doing both nights next time!


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