The Lumiere light festival was in town for the first time January 14-17, showing off beautifully designed light shows, exhibits, and experiences. The displays were not just pretty lights, as one might imagine considering the festival is named after the famous film-making Lumiere brothers, but also large and complex structures that must have required a lot of technical attention.
Luckily, I didn’t have to think about that aspect of the festival, and my friends and I were awed by the exhibits we saw. On one section of road near Regent Street, ghostly flying forms took flight to strangely calming music, while on a building facade nearby, a film of dappled lights combined to show people’s faces. Standing exhibits in Leicester Square felt like walking into a magical storybook — impossibly tall flowers that glowed from within, color-shifting fairy lights and red-topped, giant blades of grass were dotted all over.
Many people, like me, lost their companions several times when one or the other person stopped to admire a display. The usually hurried and harried people of London took a pause to take in the art, perhaps because it was unusual and diverting from the standard tourist-center attractions. But I stopped and gaped, and ooh-ed and ahh-ed, because the festival of lights played a chord deep inside me, where the happiest memories of childhood adventure and discovery lie.
This was a joyful activity that didn’t require much money, just transportation to and from the displays, and which brought a wintry, sullen London more to life as its inhabitants flocked to the streets to see the lights. It sounds like a scene from a Garcia Marquez novel, but it’s true: there was magic and nostalgia in the lights somehow, and the people felt it. I look forward to welcoming Lumiere London back next year, and will make sure I see all of the exhibits, because the feeling they brought me was really priceless.