Most city centres at night aren’t exactly family friendly, especially on a Friday. But city councils all over the UK are trying to produce events that encourage families to stay in the city after dark and to brighten up the dismal winter evenings. Nottingham has been putting on Light Night every February for the past 9 years, with the city attractions open late and buildings lit up, and special activities across the city.
The last couple of years I haven’t been able to go, or its been raining and cold, which isn’t appealing to go out in after being at work all day. But I made a special effort this year. And I wasn’t he only one- town was so busy! It was great to see so many people (and not drunk students and stag/hen parties) out on a Friday! We first made our way to Nottingham Castle as I love the opportunity to see the building and grounds lit up at night. After much shuffling to get in through the narrow keep we were treated to the mansion and architectural plants bathed in multi-coloured lights. Inside all the exhibitions and galleries were open and a choir was singing in the long gallery.
Making our way back across the Market Square, via some awesome light experiments run by The University of Nottingham, we headed to the Lace Market area and to the Galleries of Justice Museum. The street outside was blocked to cars and instead filled with market stalls and food vendors, and inside the old jail cells were temporarily housing craft stalls.
A short walk led us to St Marys Church, which held even more craft stalls and some great light installations. It is such a lovely building to be in, even though it is currently undergoing restoration, that somehow manages to seem so much larger on the inside than it looks from the outside. Maybe its a TARDIS, who knows. We managed to escape the crowds by heading to Debbie Bryan’s shop and cafe for a breather, where she had origami hearts to make as you had your tea and cake!
Our final destination was Cobden Chambers, complete with disco ball in the courtyard and video work playing in the cafe.
It is such a wonderful idea to open up the city at night; to make it feel more like a carnival like than a giant students union, and on the whole it worked. From a creative perspective, I would have liked a greater focus on light; more innovative projections rather just coloured gels on existing lights, more street performances and sculptures that you happen upon rather than have seek out. The fabulous light experiments run by the University of Nottingham were relegated to behind the pillars of the council building, with the main square being taken up with mini tennis and archery (which ironically, were not lit well enough and made it difficult to see what you were doing!). The food stalls and craft markets were brilliant, and helped to provide a wonderful carnival like atmosphere, but I felt there were just TOO many, which made it feel like any generic event, rather than keeping the emphasis on the the ‘light’. Maybe I’m being picky, maybe its because I come from an arts background, but i just feel they are missing an opportunity to create something very special, instead settling for something that blurs together with the summer ‘beach’ event and winter markets that the city council put on.
That all said, it was wonderful to see the city so packed after dark and I would definitely recommend it! I would love to know what you thought is you went -did we miss anything? Or has your city done something similar? Let me know by commenting below, or message me on on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook!