Stout walking shoes and active imaginations at the ready – LIGHTNIGHT is back on 18th May, a festival of arts, culture and street theatre that disrupts your idea of what Friday nights are all about. The city’s galleries, art spaces, cathedrals, walkways, squares and most other gaps in between will be bursting with artworks and happenings as venues stay open late to let just that little bit more culture into your lives.
With a theme of Transformation guiding the direction of this year’s work, LightNight’s artists and collaborators are asking us to process the personal, physical, emotional and political ramifications of transformation through a series of large-scale AV installations and pop-up poetry readings. As usual, the resulting festival is a cornucopia of delights, with activity that caters for art critics, family groups and everyone else in between.
There is a decidedly Samba feel to some of this year’s goings on, with a Brazilian Carnival Culture mini-festival at Central Library, featuring costume and mask workshops and a carnival parade from Batala Mersey drumming band. There is also a Samba Showcase outside the Maritime Museum at 9.30pm, and Brazilian collective Opavivará! are turning the top floor of Tate Liverpool into an immersive environment featuring playful and interactive installations.
If music’s more your thing then there’s plenty for you. Students from LIPA will be performing throughout the evening at Walker Art Gallery, surrounded by the stunning building’s grand masters. And the Sense Of Sound Singers will be performing as a nine-piece ensemble alongside Hanover collective Sub5 at the Lady Chapel (Anglican Cathedral) from 7.30pm. You can easily hop on the circular LightNight Heritage Bus to jump between all of these venues as it shuttles between the Pier Head, Jamaica Street and Lime Street – and hop back off again at St. George’s Hall, the World Museum and Tate to catch their existing exhibitions, which are staying open late for one night only.
The Bluecoat’s current Euphonia exhibition transforms the grand building’s gallery into a sonic chamber until 10pm – but there’s more to get hands on with before and after that as The Bluecoat hosts an evening of music and crafts-orientated family activities (starting at 5pm). If you get peckish in between bouts of awe, the festival is preparing two street food hubs to cater to your desires. St. Luke’s Bombed Out Church (Leece Street) has an open-air market of traders, and the Baltic Market (Stanhope Street) will be its usual vibrant mix of street food and fine cuisine.
The LightNight After Party always proves popular with late-night culture vultures, and this year’s shindig at Constellations will be no different. An audiovisual installation that blurs into a dance piece, DANCE4MATION brings legendary LGBT/BAME archivist SANDI HUGHES to the decks to set the tone prior to the vital global grooves of DJ GIOVANNA (SisBis). The night’s headline draw comes in the form of the Bollywood/Punjabi pop/club/hip hop-melting moves of South London’s MANARA, all of which is set to be augmented by a new work by Liverpool-based video artist, ANNA LEVIN. It was a lock-out last time, so get you advance tickets (a snip at just £4) from the LightNight website.
For many, the most intriguing part of LightNight is not only the discovery, but the wonder and spectacle of the festival’s one-off commissions. This year there are seven such artworks, ranging from intricate AV immersions to huge light installations to more standard musical theatre performances. Here, we pick out three happenings that we think you should make sure are on your itinerary for this year’s eye-popping culture crawl.
In Atoms @ Anglican Cathedral
The Anglican Cathedral has emerged as the iconic LightNight location, with the huge expanse of the Gothic Revival building’s interior proving the be the perfect canvas for light and sound collages. And that’s exactly what local musician IN ATOMS has in store for his commission, titled THE IMAGO.
“When people enter the space, they will see two projection screens,” he explains, “with a conversation and narrative playing out between them accompanied by an original score. The dialogue will be about the changes occurring between two characters and to emphasise this, their conversation itself will change and intentionally go out of sync – triggered by the audience.”
Moths are the ideal metaphor to carry the narrative of transformation, and the imagery of The Imago will be threaded through with them as a way of forcing us to reflect on the transient nature of our own relationships.
Whether you find the analogue audio and visual piece a soothing experience, or the deviations in timing of the spoken element cause you to gnash your teeth at the mashed up language, you’re sure to take something deeply personal away from this immersive performance.
Jayson Haebich @ RIBA North
Taking its name from the Latin word for ‘to shatter’, JAYSON HAEBICH’s ambitious plan for this major commission is to create a version of the aurora borealis inside the RIBA North building at Mann Island. The London-based artist is undaunted by the idea of creating something so grand in a one-off setting, but then he’s no stranger to creating large-scale visual masterpieces that take the breath away.
His bespoke light installations come about by the clever manipulation of laser beams, using a special lens that ‘shatters’ the light – an idea that came about by accident. “I’m really interested in science and the optics of light,” he explains. “I was testing what the laser would do through different materials. With broken glass, it was making these really interesting effects, like tendrils of light.” From this impromptu discovery, and applying his own scientific knowledge on the particle nature of light photons, Haebich developed his own lens to enhance the effect.
“It’s a constant flow of colour and light,” he says about the nature of DIFFRINGERE, which transports a little Northern Lights magic to the waterfront. “I’m hoping people will use it as a place to hang out and chill.”
Tmesis Theatre @ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Building
No one quite understands the thrill of street theatre on LightNight like TMESIS THEATRE. The award-winning group have been involved in previous public performances Waggle Dance and Flock, but this year’s commission is their boldest venture yet. WALKING UPRIGHT sees an ensemble of five performers and two musicians cram the evolution of humanity into a breathtaking 20-minute performance.
“I am wondering how far we’ll be able to get through evolution in 20 minutes!” says Artistic Director Elinor Randle. “It’s going to be quite bonkers to get through as much of it as we can.” Walking Upright has been designed as a fun, children’s picture book take on the story of humanity’s development, with special attention being paid to our physical transformation from single-celled amoeba to the massively complex structures we are now. How that is translated into choreography – that both entertains and informs – is a challenge that TT are relishing.
“We’ll imagine what we looked like then, how we look now and through into the future of robotics perhaps,” explains Randle. “It’ll be a physical and visceral journey.”
LightNight takes place across the city on Friday 18th May. You can buy your festival guide from the LightNight website now for full details and timings on all of the commissions and activity. Bido Lito! members can join us on our own LightNight Culture Crawl on the night, where we’ll be taking a small team on a guided tour of our highlights of this year’s festival.