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Lancaster sees light at the end of the tunnel

Artists let their imaginations fly to make Light Up Lancaster a reality in the city’s historic streets, squares, gardens and buildings at the weekend, attracting more than 55,700 people.

Luminous flowers bloomed in Dalton Square, polar bears found a home in the Judges’ Lodgings gardens and a waterfall flowed in Lancaster Priory.

Children shrieked with delight at Luma, a nine metre long inflatable snail in Sun Square, while everyone was surprised to see the Ashton Memorial ‘take off’ like a rocket.

The city centre streets were full of families strolling from place to place to discover the next mesmerising sight around each corner.

Crowds patiently queued outside Lancaster Castle for one of the festival’s signature attractions – Leap – stunning images projected in the courtyard accompanied by live music produced by Lancaster’s imitating the dog theatre company.

Just as moving, in more ways than one, was Gateway where people gathered in the city’s new Heritage Action Zone to follow projector bikes telling a refugee’s story.

Flights of the Imagination was the theme of Light Up Lancaster  which, like all major public events, didn’t take place last year when the Covid pandemic was at its height.

Unfortunately, imagination was what those expecting to enjoy the fireworks finale had to use as high winds forced the cancellation of the display over the castle.



So the second night of the festival was extended to give visitors more time to enjoy the artistic light spectacles including Hourglass which saw colourful images transported magically from an hourglass in Market Square to Lancaster City Museum’s portico.

Councillor Sandra Thornberry, Lancaster City Council’s cabinet member for arts and culture, said: “It was wonderful to see the return of Light Up Lancaster and so many families out enjoying themselves by discovering all the amazing sights which this festival offers.”

“Our thanks go to all partners involved in making the festival such a success and helping it regain its rightful place in the city’s exciting events calendar.”



As well as being quality free entertainment, Light Up Lancaster also was an educational and thought provoking event especially in The Storey which became Lancaster University’s Exploration Zone, providing activities for engineers of the imagination.

Lancaster University’s deputy head of events, Dr Anna Mackenzie, said: “It was great for the university to be part of Light Up Lancaster, once again. It’s just one of the ways we connect with the community and is a good opportunity to bring to life just some of the research our amazing staff carry out.

This year in particular it was great to showcase our research through hands-on activities at The Storey including a tour of the night sky, creating a light show, learning about light festivals worldwide and getting to grips with quantum physics through ‘a wall of randomness.’”

And children had another chance to participate as well as spectate when 120 local pupils saw the fantastical giant serpent they had created parade around Horseshoe Corner.  The Hindi festival of light – Diwali – was also featured as Preston City Mela performers ‘passed the light’ to Lancaster.



New for 2021 were a daytime arts fair in St Nicholas Arcade and light art installations in shop windows, supported by Lancaster BID, which will continue to twinkle until November 28’s Christmas lights switch-on.

Lancaster BID’s operations manager, Tom Fyson, said: “Light Up Lancaster always presents the city centre in a whole new light and this year was certainly no exception.”

“It was fantastic to see so many people out on Friday night, with an amazing 40% increase in footfall from 2019 proving the appetite from residents to enjoy city centre events once more. Lancaster BID is delighted to have supported such a brilliant event and would like to thank everyone involved in making it such a success.”



Light Up Lancaster was organised by Lancaster City Council, Lancaster BID and The Dukes.  It was funded by Arts Council England, Lancaster City Council, Lancaster BID, Preston Mela, the Duchy of Lancaster, Lancaster University, Historic England, Lancaster University Confucius Institute, Arnside & Silverdale AONB and the Areti Charitable Trust.


Photographs by Robin Zahler



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