Yes, it’s back. Cambridge’s E-luminate Love Light festival returns to light up the city for its 6th year.
We went along to check out the installations on the opening evening – Friday night. The festival runs until Weds 14th Feb, which handily coincides with half term if you’ve got kids (and even if you don’t) and ends on Valentines day, so might make for a nice romantic wander either before or after you go for dinner.
The opening ceremony was held at the Cambridge Guildhall, which is also one of the displays again this year. The mayor of Cambridge was there to officially give his blessing to the festival, before pressing the big red button (not sure if there actually was a button?).
There was a modest crowd gathered to see the opening ceremony (to be fair, it was really cold on Friday and if memory serves last year was very cold too) and a cheer went up when the lights were switched on, cycling through each of the seven colours in turn until eventually showing each at once.
The theme this year is the rainbow flag, as the festival also coincides with LGBTQ History month.
There was a parade of lit up bicycles who did a few laps around the market square before heading off into town. I’m not sure if they were heading off around the streets to try to drum up more interest, or just heading home at that point.
There are seven installations this year, dotted around the city centre. Easily the biggest and most eye catching (as in previous years) is the display on Senate House, which is also conveniently next two one of the other displays, on the Waterhouse building of Gonville and Caius college, both of which are just off the market square.
The Colours of Caius college (above) competes for attention with the I See installation on Senate House (below).
Whilst the display on Caius College is static, the one on Senate House definitely isn’t and cycles through a number of different patterns.These two eye catching installations vie for your attention like two competitive siblings constantly trying to out do each other to be the centre of attention. Who’s your favourite?
I’m not sure how long it takes to do a full loop but stick around for a while and watch it. It’s very impressive, especially the one that gives the impression that the building is tilting from side to side (see our video further down for that).
With those two rather eye catching displays on King’s Parade, you could be forgiven for not noticing the other installation, just in front of King’s Chapel, but it is there.
The rest of the installations are a little further afield, although when you consider how compact Cambridge is, they really aren’t far.
If you take a walk down Senate House passage, then Trinity Lane, to Garrett Hostel bridge you will find the installation at Trinity Hall college.
There are small illuminated signs with arrows to guide your way. There’s also a map of all the installations and events on the E-luminate website.
I couldn’t figure out where the best view of this installation was – on the bridge, under it or over the other side. Apparently it’s interactive, so you can influence what it does.
In the other direction, away from Senate House are the other two installations. On Bene’t Street you will find the Colours of the Brain, the windows of the Angel Bookshop.
Personally, this was the one that caught my attention for the least amount of time but it was handily on the way from Steak and Honour, where I stopped off for a burger and the last installation (and also furthest away from the Market Square), the one at the Fitzwilliam Museum.
Night at the Museum is a display showcasing some of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s most iconic artefacts. Some of these definitely work better than others but it was definitely worth the walk. Unfortunately, perhaps given the distance from the town centre, when I dropped by to take these pictures, there weren’t many people around who had obviously gone up there specifically to see this.
With the installations on from 6-11pm every night until next Wednesday, there is still plenty of time to get to see these amazing installations and if you can, you really should. Just make sure that you wrap up warm, as it does also seem to coincide with the coldest time of the year! Of course, it needs to be on during the winter months to have enough hours of darkness for the installations to be accessible.
There are also a number of events on throughout the week, although some of the most popular are already fully booked/sold out.
I have to say, E-luminate still feels like a well kept secret. Perhaps it’s the cold, perhaps it’s because it’s on over several hours for several nights, perhaps it’s because I’ve never been to any of the events, but it never feels like there are large numbers of people there to see it.
The opening ceremony was decidedly understated (in true British style) and it’s a shame that they mayor hadn’t had more time to practice his speech, as he was stumbling over his words in a couple of places. Maybe it was the cold. It might be nice to hear a bit from some of the artists responsible for the installations.
The large street lamp in front of Caius college, and the large generator setup in front of Great St Mary’s Church were slightly annoying but not enough to detract from the displays.
Don’t get me wrong, I love E-luminate and I don’t underestimate the amount of time, effort and money that must go into organising it each year. I just wish more people would get to experience the joy of it.
It would be great to see this event go from strength to strength in future because the displays are amazing and they really do show Cambridge’s buildings in a new light. Maybe future events could do more along the river – illuminating New Court at St John’s or the Wren Library at Trinity would be pretty cool.
You can find out more about the event, including a map of the installations and events, ticketing info for the remaining events and more details about each of the installations (and the overall idea behind the whole event) on the E-luminate website.