London's winter festival of light, Lumiere, runs for only four evenings. You've missed one. Thirty illuminated installations are clustered around the centre of town, lit up from 6.30pm to 10.30pm, and free to visit. All you need is a warm coat and a map - the map turns out to be quite important, because there are no signs, and otherwise you're going to miss a lot of stuff. Look out for the volunteers dishing them out, in whichever of the four areas you end up sightseeing. I did all four, obviously, and managed to find almost everything...
Leicester Square 1) Garden of Light ★: One of the largest installations, the whole of the centre of the square has been taken over by a radiant forest of light sculptures. Definitely Selfie Central, this. [photo][photo][photo]
Piccadilly, St James 2) Les Luminéoles ★: This is easily one of the best installations, three giant fish on sticks waving their tails in the air above a traffic-free bit of Piccadilly to a musical soundtrack. [photo][photo] 7) 195 Piccadilly: Large scale animation, obliquely referencing film and television, projected onto BAFTA HQ. [photo] 8) I Haven't Changed My Mind In A Thousand Years: Where would a light festival be without a neon tube twisted into a meaningful phrase. Here there are two, at either end of the Piccadilly Arcade. [photo] 9) Les Voyageurs (The Travellers) ★: Pure white human sculptures float above St James's Square. Don't waste your time trying to photograph them from a distance, it won't come out, just stare. [kev's photo]
n.b. If you collect one of the free maps being given out, don't head to the circle numbered '10' on The Mall because the sculpture hasn't been installed. The downloadable map is correct.
Regent Street 3) Elephantastic ★: Another blockbuster which wows the crowds - a holographic elephant trumpeting above the curve of Regent Street. Don't forget to head round the back to see the giant beast from the rear. [photo][photo] 4) Shaida Walking 2015: One of Julian Opie's famous electronic walkers, this one is tucked just off Carnaby Street. 5) Keyframes: On the upper façade above Desigual, just down from the Apple Store, an army of stick figures light up in choreographed sequence. An easy one to stand back and watch. [photo] 6) 1.8 London ★: By day a bit of cloth hung above Oxford Circus. By night a giant eerie colour-changing jellyfish, and the focus of a hundred cameras. You can't miss it. [photo][photo][photo]
n.b. Most of Regent Street and a bit of Oxford Street has been closed to traffic to make getting around on foot easier. That's going to be invaluable over the weekend as the crowds build up.
Trafalgar Square 10) Plastic Islands: Normally a slick of plastic bottles in the Trafalgar Square fountains would be a disgrace. Here's it's a glinting halo, intended as a jolting reminder of oceanic pollution. [photo] 11) Centre Point Lights ★: These are the actual illuminated letters from the top of Centre Point, arrayed in front of the National Gallery. Taking a photo of the whole name would be much easier if people didn't insist on wanting photos of themselves in front of individual letters. [photo][photo] 12) Neon Dogs: This looked brilliant in the publicity, and the loopy canines are indeed delightful, but they lose something by being located behind glass in the window of Coutts Bank. [photo]
Westminster 13) The Light of the Spirit ★: I confess, I didn't get to this one, it's completely out on a limb compared to the other works. But photos I've seen of the illuminated façade of Westminster Abbey look most impressive. [martin's photo]
n.b. As part of Lumiere London the Abbey will be opening late on Friday (between 6.30pm and 9pm) for just £5 - that's a considerable saving on the normal entrance fee.
Mayfair 14) Sanctuary: Birdsong calls out from the trees above Brown Hart Gardens. You'll be more impressed by the setting than the neon birdboxes. [matt's photo] 15) Dissect: If you spot it on the steps, your first thought will probably be "Oh, that's quite small".
Grosvenor Square 16) Spinning Night in Living Colour: A symphonic line drawing in autumnal shades, though the music seemed quite quiet. [photo] 17) Brothers and Sisters: A neon family group, plonked in the grass outside the American Embassy. [photo] 18) Lightbench: A couple of glowing benches you can sit on (or more likely watch other people sitting on them). 19) Aquarium: Damn, I missed this one (because it's hard to read a map in the dark and I forgot it was there), so I never saw the phone box supposedly filled with swimming fish. [martin's photo]
n.b. Grosvenor Square is going to be totally overwhelmed by the weekend crowds, and will quickly grind to a halt as volunteers shout at people to stay on the narrow footpath and off the muddy grass. If you're going to skip any part of Lumiere London, skip these six Mayfair installations.
Euston Road 20) Platonic Spin: I missed this tubular twizzle because it's another outlier, way off track opposite Warren Street station.
King's Cross (King's Boulevard) 21) IFO (Identified Flying Object): The giant rainbow birdcage (inbetween King's Cross and St Pancras stations) holds a surprise - there's a swing inside. [photo] 22) Joining the Dots: One of the cleverer installations, this, with clusters of 13 dots projected onto the German Gymnasium, each representing human movement. [photo] 23) King's Cross Tunnel: The light display along the new subway entrance to King's Cross station is always here, and is usually empty, so you won't enjoy it so much filled with people. [photo] 24) Dresses: At least three shop/restaurant windows contain a starchy billowing dress of light, quite possibly blocked from view by too many people trying to look at it. [photo] 25) Light Graffiti: If there's a pole going spare, you'll be able to wander around tracing paths of light on a square of pavement. Top tip, the sensor is above your head, so hold your stick up. [photo]
n.b. King's Cross has the densest concentration of artworks, and it's very difficult to get lost. But it was also surprisingly packed out yesterday, so over the weekend you might end up shuffling around.
King's Cross (Granary Square) 26) binaryWaves: Forty rotating panels line the Regent's Canal, one side with a red LED line reacting to its environment. I liked this one. [photo] 27) Circus of Light ★: A light festival wouldn't be complete without a son et lumière, this one broadcast along the facade of St Martins School of Art. Enjoy a jolly and colourful tale of London told by a fox and a crow in a hat. [photo][photo] 28) Litre of Light: A tunnel of plastic containers inside the St Martins foyer spreads a recycling message. It was absolutely rammed last night, perhaps an indication of how the rest of the festival will play out elsewhere. [photo] 29) Spectra-3 Lux ★: A satellite-style dish spins and flashes round, to a lively musical soundtrack, outside the newly-opened Waitrose. [photo][photo] 30) Diver ★: For this the Kings Cross crew make you walk all the way to the top of the development where a neon figure dives with a splash into an artificial pool. Best seen from the elevated viewing platform. [photo]
n.b. They've gone all out here to provide street food and entertainment, plus food and beer. But try not to spend your entire evening in King's Cross, you'll be missing out.
I got round twenty-seven of the exhibits in 2½ hours by a) going alone b) totally rushing it c) getting the tube from number 1 to number 21 d) the crowds not being too dreadful. You'll probably need to focus more and be patient. But do try and see some of Lumiere London, because it's not often a must-see brightens up mid-January. And wrap up warm.