Lumiere London: Interview with Founder [archive]

The driving force behind Lumiere London, Helen Marriage (Director of arts charity Artichoke), talks to us about this extraordinary event, which will take over the streets of London’s West End this January. She looks back at the 2016 event, talks about what we can look forward to during the upcoming festival and explains about how businesses across the heart of London can get involved.

“Lumiere brings winter sparkle to people’s lives and allows us to enjoy the new year season in a different way, whilst discovering those amazing nooks and crannies across the West End that visitors and residents alike may not usually find or visit. The Lumiere festival offers that opportunity to get to know London in a completely new way.

Lumiere in 2016 took people by surprise and allowed them to explore London as a freewheeling, extraordinary pedestrian paradise. Particularly across the streets between Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and down Piccadilly and St James’s.

In 2016, visitors and residents alike were exploring a city that they were familiar with but somehow it felt completely different and you could really feel the magic that came on to the streets. It was tangible. You could feel people laughing and smiling and saying London should be like this every day.

We want audiences to find new curiosities that will constantly take them by surprise. Piccadilly and Leicester Square, which were central to our thinking last time, again play that role but with completely new installations.

Artists working with Lumiere, visit the streets of a city and see the landscape in a way we would never have considered. In 2016, a French company called Groupe LAPS were inspired by Old Liberty House, with it’s amazing frieze of animations of people running. It was immediately obvious that they needed do something there and what resulted was ‘Keyframe’, featuring animated dancing stick men on the façade of Liberty London.

This year more than 40 UK and international artists will transform the city into a vast nocturnal outdoor exhibition space, offering audiences new and surprising perspectives on the capital’s districts, streets and iconic architecture. In the heart of London, Leicester Square Gardens will be transformed into an evocative, illuminated world, bringing a sense of the wild into the heart of the city. Piccadilly will also have a few wonderful surprises.

Local businesses should think creatively about what this big audience wants and extend their welcome beyond the Festival itself.”

In the context of how local businesses can get involved, Helen Marriage advises that the Lumiere audience is moving all the time, so while consumers might not want to sit down for a long meal, provide the audience with the right drinks and snacks that they can grab and go, or if they can come in to enjoy a special treat or a great vantage point, then that could be the best way to serve them.

People also come in before the event starts and will be looking to enjoy Lumiere-focused offers or special deals. This year the printed programme will feature a map for each individual area alongside special offers. We are asking local businesses to create offers and Lumiere-themed food, drink or shopping experiences so that we can promote them to our audiences.

“Bespoke Lumiere offers from local businesses can be very simple. At a recent city-wide event in France, the local milliner rustled up a pot of Vin au Chaud and served it up outside of his shop. He created an opportunity to say have a glass of wine and step inside.

Heart of London is the place people come to feel London all around them. To see its iconic, historic buildings and great shopping streets. We transform these world-famous landmarks in an incredible way to make something known seem less familiar, but equally amazing. I think we offer that opportunity to get to know London and get to know it in a completely new way.”