diamond geezer

 Friday, January 19, 2018

Everything you need to know about Lumiere London
(n.b. not actually everything you need to know, but this never stops clickbait websites claiming similar)

Where is it? Across central London, in six clusters (King's Cross, Fitzrovia, Mayfair, West End, Westminster, South Bank)
When is it? Thursday 18th - Sunday 21st January, 5.30-10.30pm
What is it? An outdoor light festival, bigger and better than two years ago
What is it really? A midwinter promotion to bring people to central London over a drab weekend, based on something Durham originally did
Where's the website? Here

How do you find your way around? You could just turn up in central London and wander, but you'll miss lots. A map exists, but you can't download it unless you donate at least £1 (here's a low-res section). There's also a festival programme, that's £5. Kings Cross is more desperate to draw in the punters, so their map is free. Your best option otherwise is to download the Visit London app, which has an interactive map (and delete the app as soon as you get home).
How long to see it all? Ages. At least two nights, I'd say, and there are only three left. I routemarched round 40 of the 54 exhibits in four hours. Do not try this.
Who's it aimed at? Everyone, from foreign tourists to office workers, but especially people who want to clog up Facebook with videos of bright things.
Is it busy? Thursday night was pretty good actually, lively but not crowded. It'll be much worse on Friday and Saturday. Expect to shuffle.
Is it any good? Obviously.

Tell us about King's Cross: This is a compact cluster, so good for an easy wander, but also the most likely to be rammed. The big wow is Waterlight, a simulated flood making waves above head height in Granary Square. The giant anglepoise lamps along King's Boulevard are impressive, the wheatfield of reflectors in Lewis Cubitt Square and the watering cans by the gasholders somewhat less so. Look out for the big screen hanging from a crane. King's Cross would really like you to hang around, eat noodles and meet mixologists. Best resist.
Tell us about Fitzrovia: Just the four here, and only half worth seeing. The one getting all the attention is the video game displayed across the facade of a building in Store Street - join the queue and you might get to play Pong simply by raising your arm. The couple stood behind me weren't alive in the 1970s, so thought this was amazing.

Tell us about Mayfair: This is worth a wander, though never tips over into astonishing. Installations include half a dozen seesaws in South Molton Street, neon bikes in Brown Hart Gardens and a (mesh) nightingale in Berkeley Square. The rods dangled across Grosvenor Square look best from an oblique angle rather than underneath. Don't fight to sit on the two lightbenches in Duke Street - there are dozens at Canary Wharf, and they'll be empty. I enjoyed bashing the pipes on the Illumaphonium in Mount Street, but some of the local residents were already annoyed by the 'music' - they'll be incandescent by Sunday.
Tell us about the West End: This is the biggie, full of must-sees. The bubble suspended above Oxford Circus was supposed to be amazing, but had to be removed due to high winds so all the traffic had been stopped for nothing. Hopefully it'll be back today. Two buildings further down Regent Street have impressive projections - one's so good it brought Piccadilly Circus to a halt, but was alas outdazzled by the adjacent adverts. Leicester Square is full of countryside creatures, but the flapping flamingoes in Chinatown are a lot more fun, especially if you're a small child they choose to take an interest in.

Tell us about Westminster: These are all crackers. Everybody loves the sea of balloons in Trafalgar Square, but I was even more taken by the pink ladder on top of St Martin-in-the-Fields ascending into heaven. Westminster Abbey has the same front projection as in 2016, which is stunning. Westminster Cathedral has a giant rose window plonked outside, whose concentric rings light up according to how hard the audience pedals. The sheeting on Westminster Town Hall is being used to screen amazing footage of giant people 'climbing the wall' to a height of 19 storeys, including a wedding party and a team of rowers in lycra.
Tell us about the South Bank: This was my biggest disappointment, with the lowest entertainment:slog ratio. I couldn't find the projection on the outside of the Royal Festival Hall. The nearby security stewards apologised. A lot of people had been asking, they said, but they hadn't been trained to know where the art is. The projection on the National Theatre is on the opposite side to where the map says it is, and is dull. The lights on the front of Sea Containers House are best seen from the other side of the river. The only thing truly worth seeing is The Wave, a Toblerone tunnel of 40 interactive triangular frames, overfull of people trying to find the best way to photograph themselves within it.

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