We’re thrilled to announce the 37 spectacular artworks programmed for Lumiere‘s return to Durham, 18 – 21 November 2021

In the most ambitious and far-reaching edition of the festival yet, the programme extends beyond the city into the wider county for the first time ever.

Lumiere 2021 will reimagine the historic contours of county and city, politics and society, through dramatic installations, spellbinding projections and quiet and poignant works, showcasing the infinite possibilities of light art in all its forms. Click here to explore the full artistic programme. You can also click here to view the artworks on our City and County map.

As always, tickets will be free. We’re offering priority online booking for County Durham residents from 10:00 on Tuesday 19 October. Tickets will go on general release online at 10:00 on Thursday 21 October. Click here to find out more about ticketing.

Lumiere’s new County programme: Marks in the Landscape

For this major new element, complementing Lumiere’s existing county-wide community programme, six international light artists were invited to respond to previous interventions in the landscape made by humans across County Durham. Spanning almost 500 years from a medieval priory to an iconic brutalist pavilion, these new works offer a different take on familiar landmarks brought to life in unexpected ways.

Spanning almost 500 years from a medieval priory to an iconic brutalist pavilion, these new works offer a different take on familiar landmarks brought to life in unexpected ways.

Medieval meets modern in Javier Riera’s Castle of Light (Spain), a series of 3-dimensional abstract projections that magically transform the lakeside façade of Durham’s famous 14th-century fortress, Raby Castle. Finnish artist Kari Kola brings his experience of lighting world heritage sites such as Stonehenge to Finchale Priory with Solitude, a new site-specific commission, which will be accompanied by a soundscape composed by Sylvain Moreau. Elaine Buckholtz & Ian Winters’ A Telling of Light (US) will transform a North East landmark, the Penshaw Monument, into a beautiful and haunting COVID-19 memorial made up of projections of a single illuminated breath.  While this 18th century folly officially sits in Sunderland, it will be viewable for up to 20 miles  across County Durham. 

Raby Castle with a black and white zigzag projection over it

Occupying a prominent position in Seaham Marina is GO WITH THE FLOW / SWIM AGAINST THE TIDE, a large-scale LED text sculpture by Tim Etchells (UK), pairing two well-known phrases, which seem to contradict each other, hinting at the social struggles of compliance and resistance. An energising beacon of luminous colour will radiate across Ushaw Historic House and Gardens in Liz West’s Hymn to the Big Wheel (UK), creating an intriguing and immersive interplay of coloured shadows. Finally, Apollo 50 by Berlin-based artists, Mader Wiermann, which was first shown in Peterlee to mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic brutalist Apollo Pavilion, returns for Lumiere 2021, transforming the concrete structure with a mesmerising light sequence. 

GO WITH THE FLOW / SWIM AGAINST THE TIDE neon sign above a carpark

Lumiere’s first collaboration with leading poets

In this major new initiative, Artichoke in collaboration with New Writing North and Durham University, is stepping into the world of contemporary poetry.  With new commissions from ten of the UK’s most exciting poets, including Kayombo Chingonyi, Selina Nwulu, Roger Robertson,  Kae Tempest and Michael Rosen, these new works will be projected onto the ancient walls of Durham Castle. Anthology – Into the Light seeks to engage with the meaning of light and darkness through the interplay of words, light and sound. 

Rendering of poem projected onto the walls of Durham Castle

Lumiere’s first online and in-person interactive artwork

Tekja’s Tree of Hope (UK) is a digital tree which evolves online in response to the hopes expressed by individuals around the world. Inspired by Durham’s history as a place of ‘big thinkers’ and stunning landscapes, the sapling will grow into a beautiful tree as hopes are gathered online from Durham and around the world. This is the first-ever Lumiere artwork to be hosted in the digital space, giving audiences a chance to be part of the magic whether or not they are present at the festival. The live audience will also get a chance to contribute to the physical representation, while the online tree will continue to live online beyond the four days of the festival. 

An animated cherry blossom tree on a blue backdrop

“It has been an extraordinary and unimaginable two years since we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Lumiere.  None of us could have foreseen the pandemic from the perspective of 2019 and the trauma and disruption that it would visit on our communities. This year’s festival is therefore very special, not least because there has been so much uncertainty around whether or not we would be able to make it happen.

So we begin by saying this is a celebration. And all the more so with the exciting news that County Durham has been long-listed for City of Culture 2025. It’s also an affirmation of the strength of the amazing partnerships and collaborations Lumiere has built across County Durham over the last ten years: with our Commissioner Durham County Council major partner Durham University, within the local community, and with all of our partners who have demonstrated such faith, confidence and resilience during the long planning process in the production of this event. 

And Lumiere continues to grow deep roots. For the first time, we are launching a brand-new programme of major installations taking the festival out across County Durham, and further embedding a countywide participation programme that has involved thousands of local residents and young people in Lumiere projects over the last decade. Other significant new initiatives include a wonderful first collaboration with some of the UK’s leading poets, and our first-ever digital artwork hosted online, enabling the global Lumiere community to join in the magic wherever they are in the world. As ever, artists sit at the heart of our work. Their ability to transform the everyday, to make us look with wonder at the truth that lies just below the surface of our complicated lives, their messages of hope for a different future and reflections on past lives – this is the important core of this year’s Lumiere programme and the centre of Artichoke’s work.”

~ Helen Marriage, Director of Artichoke

New works referencing the climate crisis

Lines, a vivid white line which cuts across the Fulling Mill stretch of the riverbank – is an artwork by Pekka Niittyvirta & Timo Aho (Finland) that highlights the catastrophic impact of rising sea levels. Imminence, a light and sound installation by Novak (UK) invites you to experience and reflect on animated scenes depicting the consequences of climate change as they unfold beneath your feet. Issues captured in the vibrant projected landscape and accompanying soundscape range from deforestation and bee extinction, to coral bleaching and global warming.

Child walking across multilcoloured floor projection with images of flowers, shapes, fruits and bees
Passers-by interact with ‘Imminence’, a climate-inspired public artwork at Bloomberg Arcade in the City of London. Photo 2019. Matt Crossick/PA Wire

New interactive sound works

Everyone can be a musician at this year’s Lumiere. Activated by touch, Halo by Illumaphonium (France) is an illuminated interactive musical sculpture that allows everyone to make music and never play a duff note. Over at St Oswald’s Church, Sming by Superbe (Belgium) is one of the most intriguing installations of the festival, where participants become both conductor and choir. 

young girl stood up conducting and in front of her are multiple screens with an image of her face live

New to Lumiere

Inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, Palma Studio (Hungary/UK) will transform the façade of Durham Cathedral into an immersive reflection on the present moment, the darkness and loss we have endured as well as the glimmering return of Lumiere as a moment of collective hope with In Our Hearts Blind Hope.

CHRONOS by Epsztein & Gross (France) is a video-mapped projection and soundscape that takes the viewer on an audio-visual voyage through time from the Belle Epoque and the Industrial Revolution, through to the present day. Dominik Lejman’s video mural, When Today Makes Yesterday Tomorrow (Poland), explores themes of surveillance and control.


black and white inverted image of crowd of people and shaking hands when they meet in the middle

Jim Campbell’s renowned Scattered Light (US) incorporates almost 2,000 LED bulbs which will flicker to create the illusion of figures moving across St Mary’s College terrace. Groupe LAPS (France) brings an LED rock’n’roll band to Durham’s historic Market Place with an all-night performance by The FroggsLuminous light pours into a dark tunnel through corrugated coloured panels with Liz West’s Drop Scene (UK), creating mesmerising and kaleidoscopic visuals. A giant iconic desk lamp, Lampounette, by TILT (France), transforms its space in the city into a warm, welcoming living room. 

Shifting Ground is a new commission by Tim Etchells (UK) that plays with meaning at Durham Miners’ Hall, contrasting past certainties and present instability, while Tony Heaton’s neon pink projection, A Bigger Ripple (UK), is humorous, subversive and political. 

sketch of a rainbow of panels against a dark wall under a tunnel


The six inventive artworks from the winners of the BRILLIANT competition will also be revealed. Erin McDougle’s Two for Joy (UK), based on the old nursery rhyme, “one for sorrow, two for joy”, encourages warmth with its good omen. Daksha Patel’s (UK) projections for The Fossilised Sea reveals Durham’s geological history from 325 million years ago. Taking inspiration from the water patterns of the River Wear and the monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tendayi Vine and Bea Wilson’s Limina (UK) invites visitors to immerse themselves in liquid light. Steph Whalen (UK) aims to raise awareness about hidden disabilities through coloured hearts in the sky with Invisible Hearts. Inspired by the prolonged periods when we may have been unable to visit friends and family, Paul Jex’s Reconnect (UK) features a set of street signs of sentimental significance. Kaleidoscope (UK) by the Northern Butterflies was inspired by the group’s experience of managing a community allotment.



black and white image of fossils

New community-led works 

As always there is the involvement of a wide range of community groups and individuals from across County Durham taking part in the creation of artworks for this year’s festival. Local residents have collaborated with lantern artists from The Lantern Company and Jo Pocock (UK) contributing their own stories to create City of Light, City of Stories (UK) which will transform College Green into a glowing cityscape of lanterns. Meanwhile huge hanging flowers reimagine and reuse household plastic in the crafty artwork Plastica Botanica (UK) designed by Plastic Shed and created by local community groups. Referencing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which establishes the right of every child to freely express their views, Article 12 (UK)a series of text light neon artworks, celebrates the voices of local young people.

A flower made of plastic lit up

Returning favourites

Floating Pictures’ Colour by Light (Sweden) which first delighted audiences in Durham at Lumiere 2017, will once again provide an opportunity for visitors to get creative and paint the streets of Durham with the use of a smartphone, torch or any source of light. 

Three permanent artworks which have already become part of the fabric of the city will also be on display for visitors to enjoy. Lightbenches by Bernd Spiecker for LBO (Germany) has been encouraging passers-by to take the weight off their feet since 2015, while Jon Voss’ Heron from Lumiere 2017 continues to capture a fleeting moment in time – the unfolding wings of one of Britain’s most iconic birds. Installed following Lumiere 2019, The Next Pageilluminates the words by Women residents at HMP Low Newton in Brasside and poet Hannah Jane Walker (UK).

Neon sign written
The Next Page, Hannah Jane Walker, Residents HMP Low Newton, Neon Workshops, Lumiere Durham 2019. Photo by Matthew Andrews.

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