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Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

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Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

I feel compelled to comment on this year’s Lumiere Festival in Durham which was very disappointing. 2 years ago Durham Lumiere was spectacular. Amazing installations at the key locations in the city – market place snow globe, cathedral son et lumiere, fire festival at the back of the cathedral (brilliant), south bailey illuminated suspended mesh figures, Prebends Bridge rainbow - a sensible and enjoyable route through the main attractions and down onto the river and a relaxed atmosphere despite the crowds. I went on the Sunday in 2011 whilst still light, had a coffee, parked easily in the Prince Bishops Car Park and waited for darkness then wandered around. It was very busy but people were moving around easily with only minor queues to get through the cathedral, for example. We also had time to visit other installations in the Elvet area.

What a different story this year. From a customer perspective the ticketing system was a disaster. As I didn’t have a ticket I went on Saturday evening at around 6.30 pm with the aim of looking at some of the peripheral installations first then getting into the peninsula for 7.30pm. We didn’t see many of the these other installations as we felt we had to join the massive queue to get into the market place and we didn’t get in until 8.30pm. The crowd control system smacked of the tyrannies of health and safety legislation with metal barriers everywhere and marshals shouting instructions on megaphones. The whole atmosphere was ruined. When we got there we found the installations pretty uninspiring. We didn’t have time to explore the installations further afield.

I had a friend with ME and a disabled car badge with me. There was no disabled parking anywhere near the city and I had to park at County Hall. She couldn’t manage the walk back to the car. I had to bring it down.

Please assure me that if there is a next time,the installations have more of a WOW factor and that H&S legislation will not ruin the event with barriers, ticketing and the heavy presence of noisy marshals.

Durham Cathedral
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Crook Hall & Gardens
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1. Re: Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

Third time lucky for a thread on this subject!

Good Luck, Durham forum....

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2. Re: Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

Unfortunately (or fortunately it appears) did not get there myself but told from others how disappointing the whole festival was.

Looking at photos some of the exhibits were good/bad/awful (whats with the terrible rubbish bag Christmas tree?) and the crowd control with the tickets does appear to have been a bit of a disaster.

The local paper (Northern Echo) has run some comments from visitors and its not reading too well....

London, England...
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3. Re: Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

I would like to express my disappointment about the Durham Lumiere, 2013.

I had heard positive and excellent recommendations by 'word of mouth' about the 2011 Lumiere. I went for the first time with my boyfriend and our respective families.

The astounding reviews of 2011 visitors convinced us to attend this year and we left feeling very deflated, especially since travelling from London. The attractions were too far apart and seem like a poor attempt after what we'd been told were in the 2011 Lumiere.

We would like to visit again in 2013 to see if it regains the reputation of the 2011 Lumiere. However, if it doesn't come up to a standard that is equal to, or even better than the 2011 Lumiere, we certainly won't be wasting our time to visit this attraction again.

Highly disappointed!

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4. Re: Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

I was not disappointed by the Lumiere. From seeing the crowds and people returning to view I think most people enjoyed it. The light on the cathedral was a definite spectacle and festival certainly brought life to Durham. For myself I would not have travelled several hundred miles to view but for all those within easy reach I would recommend it. I found the crowds oppressive but I do not think it affected most visitors.

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5. Re: Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

I agree, the exhibits were in the main disappointing and thin on the ground. The Market Square, which surely should have been a major showpiece, was left with only the fish tank phonebox. This meagre offering was virtually impossible to view given the depth of the crowd surrounding it. That's not to say we didn't enjoy the night, we did, but it had little to do with the exhibits (other than the elephant) and more to do with the crisp autumn evening, a few welcoming pubs, the good natured crowd and Durham being a beautiful city.

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6. Re: Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

Such a disappointment after the magical experience of Lumiere 2011.


When we visited on the SUnday evening, I have to say that the crowd control was good, even if the stewards were a bit "shouty".  The crowd numbers seemed relatively low compared to 2011, and apart from the ridiculous queue for the cathedral, everything was moving ok.  l loved the projected elephant and the fish-tank telephone box. The brass band campsite was fun, and different, but way too far out of the centre, and many people will have given it a miss. 


I hate to say it, but our overall impression was "Is this it?" Sadly, the main central area of the city was dull and uninspiring. In 2011 the centre was spectacular, with amazing installations everywhere, but this year it was poor: after a 45 minute wait, the inside of the cathedral was really low-key and disappointing; in the Market Place,  there was nothing to see but the telephone box installation; just the same recycled light show on the cathedral walls (admittedly still great if you hadn't seen it before);  none of the magical fire displays around the cathedral - in fact nothing at all where the fire garden was in 2011! No musicians, no illuminated wire sculptures in the side streets, no beautiful bridge illuminations, waterfall or riverside walk. 

Some of the peripheral installations sounded interesting, but were so widely dispersed that it wasn't feasible to see more than the odd one, especially for families with younger children. 

It feels mean to criticise what is essentially a "free" event, and I do appreciate that a lot of people still put a lot of effort into this year's Lumiere,  but we had travelled a long way to see this, at a considerable expense,  hoping for a repeat of the 2011 event,  and we ended up feelng we had somewhat wasted our time and money, because there was simply no comparison. Maybe funding was a problem this year, but if so, why not concentrate the installations into the central area and manage the crowds carefully rather than water down the event by siting things miles away in car parks and on roundabouts? 

In fact, I would have happily paid for tickets to see something more akin to 2011,  if that would have helped to fund a better event.

Edited: 20 November 2013, 16:32
Bromsgrove, United...
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7. Re: Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

Agree. Very disappointing this year. Not worth going to see.

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8. Re: Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

We visited the Lumiere Fesitival in 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed it, the crowds were not a problem and we said then that if they held another Lumiere we would come back. Unfortunately, due to lack of information, we were unable to obtain tickets but after hearing on TV that it was open to the public after 7.30 we decided to visit last Sunday. We arrived at 4pm and managed to park in The Gates Shopping centre. On exiting we were met by barriers up into the City so our only option was to turn right.We spoke to some ladies in high viz jackets to ask if it was possible to get tickets. They directed us to a young man at the entrance to the barriers who they said could let us have some. He said he had none but come back in an hour. We decided to go for something to eat but of course all our favouriet eateries were inside the ticket only area. Like others we found little to see outside the main area so we approached 'our friend' at the barrier to ask what the chances of getting the tickets were. He replied that he couldn't guarantee them but then said "you may not get in at 7.30 as we have been told only to let the general public through if it isn't busy" At this we decided not to wait for two hours just on the off chance of getting in. From the above comments I am glad we did as it obviously was not as good as the previous event. We have visited Durham City regularly and love the place but this has left a sour taste in our mouths and will not attend any 'organised' events in the future.

Durham, England...
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9. Re: Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

Oh dear - sorry to hear negative comments and I do not agree with them by and large. We went to the disastrous Saturday night debacle in 2011 when we got stuck in the shuffling throng. We never even made it to the Cathedral. This year, I thought the queues worked, and it meant you could walk around easily. I thought the installations fantastic, though I do agree I would have like to see more in the market place - much as I loved the phone box. The Cathedral, inside and out was spectacular, as were the dresses in The Cloisters, and indeed the College lights behind the Cathedral. I loved it. I am a Durham resident (Shincliffe) and was so looking forward to it. I did not feel disappointed at all. I hope it is repeated in 2015.

10. Re: Durham Lumiere Festival 2013

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