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Your complete guide to the 2018 e-Luminate Festival in Cambridge


By Gemma Gardner


An image from e-Luminate 2017. Picture: Keith Heppell
An image from e-Luminate 2017. Picture: Keith Heppell

All the stunning light installations and events held from February 9-14, plus a map of locations

An image from e-Luminate 2017. Picture: Keith Heppell
An image from e-Luminate 2017. Picture: Keith Heppell

As day turns to night, Cambridge’s most iconic buildings are being transformed by an array of breathtaking light-art installations, created by some of Europe’s leading artists.

Now regarded as one of the region’s most popular events, the e-Luminate Festival, organised by Cambridge Live and running from February 9-14, attracts thousands to the city each winter to see the dazzling light installations over the course of six evenings.

The festival offers the public a truly unique winter spectacle as ephemeral light art designs transform everyday buildings and spaces into something magical for a few short hours.

With ‘Colour’ as this year’s central theme, artistic director Alessandra Caggiano has invited British art historian and BAFTA-nominated broadcaster Dr James Fox to be 2018’s guest curator.

An image from e-Luminate 2017. Picture: Keith Heppell
An image from e-Luminate 2017. Picture: Keith Heppell

Dr Fox said: “I’ve been dazzled and delighted by e-Luminate Cambridge since it started in 2013.

“It floods Cambridge with light at a dark time of the year, and makes us see this beautiful city with fresh eyes. I am therefore delighted to be working with Alessandra in curating the 2018 festival.

“Together we will explore a subject very close to my heart: colour. We’ll explore the complex relationship between light and colour from various perspectives, combining art, science, and technology.

“Colour illuminates our world. Humans can see millions of different hues, and our lives would not be the same without them. Colour helps us understand our environment, communicate our emotions, and create meaning. It’s a powerful tool for artists and designers. But to see colour, there needs to be light.”

A familiar and popular figure presenting arts programmes on BBC, CNN and Sky Arts, Dr Fox is a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College and has published widely on many aspects of modern art.

Cambridge Live managing director, Steve Bagnall, said: “It is a spectacular event, bathing some of the historic buildings of our beautiful city in light. It allows people to experience the city in a whole new way with plenty of opportunities for everyone to explore light and colour by taking part in our programme of workshops and events.”

Other events to look out for during the six-day city festival include talks, workshops, experimental wine tasting sessions and the return of the popular trail of light walks through Cambridge colleges and the glow games in collaboration with the sports team at Cambridge City Council.

Visit cambridgelivetrust.co.uk/e-luminate for ticket details.

A map of the e-Luminate Festival 2018 locations
A map of the e-Luminate Festival 2018 locations

The events

Some of the attractions are free installations run throughout the festival (February 9-14), while others are one-off events.

1) Colour Talk led by festival guest curator, Dr James Fox

1815 Bar, Cambridge Union, Sat Feb 10

In what promises to be a festival highlight, hosted by the Cambridge Union and led by Dr James Fox, an array of academics will talk about their own unique area of research and its own particular relation to the theme of ‘colour’. An amazing opportunity to unearth some of the fascinating discoveries being made behind the scenes.

2) Installation: Women writing history

Trinity Hall

This is a lighting piece that sets an invitation to participate in an imaginative exercise about women’s role on writing the past. This installation is created by BDP to mark the 40th anniversary since the admission of female students and fellows to Trinity Hall, and it is a collaboration with Royston-based Tryka L.E.D., Pharos lighting control solutions and Design Intent International. Sponsor: Trinity Hall, BDP

3) Installation: I see

Senate House

The 21st century communicates with the 13th on the front of Cambridge’s magisterial Senate House, as the philosophical ideas of medieval luminary Robert Grosseteste inspire a succession of optical illusions based on shape and colour projections created by leading British artist, Ross Ashton. Sponsor: Panasonic, Pearce Hire

4) Trail of Light through college chapels

Michaelhouse Centre

Mon Feb 12

A unique way to experience the architecture of the Cambridge college chapels and churches like never before. The event consists of walks through the city, visiting different venues and listening to short choir concerts at each stop. Participants will be given their own LED lights transforming to create a beautiful moving light parade effect. Sponsor: Bill’s Restaurant

5) Installation: Hammersmith Poem (Cambridge Poem) 2017

King’s College Chapel

Situated in front of Cambridge’s best-known landmark, King’s College Chapel, British conceptual artist Robert Montgomery uses laser cut aluminium and LED light to bring a poetic voice to the discourse of text, creating a large scale illuminated poem. This light work translates a text from Robert Montgomery’s Hammersmith Poem series, into a stark monolith recalling the form of minimalist undercut with a passionate statement about the importance of free education.

6) It’s What We Do by Rose Bruford College students

Market square, Fri Feb 9

Inspired by the theme of colour, the students at the Rose Bruford College in Kent will use their theatre and performance skills to produce a temporary installation which will be exhibited in the market square at the festival launch.

7) e-Luminate Cambridge opening ceremony

Cambridge Guildhall, from 6pm Fri Feb 9

Not to be missed, the traditional switch on of the Guildhall light installation in Market Square takes place on the evening of Friday, February 9 from 6pm onwards.

The mayor of Cambridge will officially switch on the lights and declare the festival open around 7pm.

8) Installation: The Colour of Science

Cambridge Guildhall

The Guildhall façade will be the focal point of e-Luminate Cambridge’s opening night launch, as the mayor opens the festival, switching on the building’s LGBT-themed design created by the Lumineer Studio with Led Linear and Architainment products and in partnership with the Encompass Network. Sponsors: Lumineer Studio, Architainment Lighting

9) Light Painting Workshop

Cambridge Guildhall, Sun Feb 11

Taking place in the Guildhall Main Hall, photographer Lucinda Price will help participants to get creative using their camera and create beautiful light painting compositions.

10) Glow Games

Cambridge Guildhall, Mon Feb 12

It’s fun and it’s free! Glow Games at the Guildhall is multi-sports in the dark with UV lighting including badminton, table tennis, netball, basketball, volleyball and new for this year, glow fitness.

11) Ordered Universe Talks with Giles Gasper

Cambridge Guildhall. Fri Feb 9

An opportunity to delve into the fascinating world of the Ordered Universe Project. A fusion of scientists and medieval specialists explore the wonderful world of medieval polymath Robert Grosseteste (c.1170 – 1253). Later bishop of Lincoln, he composed a famed series of works on natural phenomena: sound, the nature of place, time and its calculation, and above all, light.

This talk, in the Guildhall Small Hall, presents ideas and research and will feature an interactive exhibition and poster display.

12) Trail of Light through college chapels

Pembroke College, Sat Feb 10

A unique way to experience the architecture of the Cambridge college chapels and churches like never before. The event consists of walks through the city, visiting different venues and listening to short choir concerts at each stop. Participants will be given their own LED lights transforming to create a beautiful moving light parade effect. Sponsor: Bill’s Restaurant

13) Night at the Museum

Fitzwilliam Museum

Ross Ashton maps onto the Fitzwilliam building a series of stunning images – pictures of a selection of colourful artefacts taken from museums across the city.

Sponsors: Panasonic and Fitzwilliam Museum

14) Wine tasting at Hotel du Vin – Sat and Sun Feb 10 and 11

This popular event returns, this time with three sessions hosted by Hotel du Vin during the festival weekend.

Taste and learn about different wines and the fascinating effect different light has on the palate.

Sponsors: Pulsar and Hotel du Vin

View an interactive map of the installations.



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