Complete guide to Illuminating York

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Illuminating tales: the Storyteller

Like a once unstoppable band returning after a poorly-received album, Illuminating York returns to the city this autumn with everyone hoping it’s back to its best.

With accusations of selling out (they introduced a cost for the main events last year) as well as some experimental guest acts (a 50 foot Vic Reeves projected in the museum gardens turned out to be the stuff of some people’s nightmares), not to mention a lacklustre review on YorkMix, organisers will be hoping this is the comeback.

Here’s all you need to know.

What is it?

A festival. Oh how we York residents can’t resist a festival. This one involves shining lights on buildings. Much more inspiring than it sounds, Illuminating York is now in its ninth year, with incredible, psychedelic light installations taking place at many of York’s most iconic landmarks.

Running for four nights (October 30 to November 2) with 11 illuminating artworks and a variety of accompanying fringe events, including concerts and (of course) chocolate tasting, you’ll have to plan your time carefully.

This year’s theme is “illuminating the past, enlightening the future” which sounds like an Olympic overhang, but basically it’s largely about Vikings, their folklore and their relationship with York.

Sounds Confusing! What are the highlights?

The two main events this year are The Storyteller in Museum Gardens and Triquetra taking place at Clifford’s Tower.

Both these events are ticketed, costing £4 to see one of them or £6 for both. Under 16s can get a single ticket for £3 or a dual one for £5. Under fives go free!

Although a few tickets are available at the Theatre Royal box office on the nights, organisers advise to buy tickets in advance. You can purchase tickets online at the theatre’s website.

The Storyteller tells the tale of a Viking King, Eric Bloodaxe, and promises a humorous narrative and unforgettable effects. It’s produced in conjunction with Immersive Productions who worked on the London 2012 Olympics.

Triquetra also concerns Vikings, but tells the story of the three Viking kings who had a great influence on York. The piece was created by interactive artists Karen Monid and Ross Ashton.

Both the events will be running from 6-10pm each night of the festival with last admissions being at 9.45pm. The busiest time tends to be 6-7.30pm so for a more relaxing viewing its best to go after this time.

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Triquetra, one of this year’s installations

What about smaller events?

There are a number of free, smaller installations across the city. New for this year is Spark: Tree Of Life, which has a series of young artists displaying their work in the form of a trail starting at Treasurer’s House Garden and finishing at the Memorial Gardens. The “tree of life” was an important part of Viking folklore.

Visitors put out by the costs of some of the main events will be glad to hear this display is free.

Other events worth a look include Locos In A Different Light. As part of the Mallard 75 season of events the National Railway Museum will be putting on special lighting displays, illuminating their six Class A4 locomotives.
This display is also free.

Anything else?

As well as installations there are a series of fringe events hoping to satisfy the predicted 50,000 visitors.

Those who have had enough of lights can embrace the darkness at York’s Chocolate Story on Saturday, November 2. They will be offering a sensory experience of tasting chocolate in complete darkness. You can’t say they aren’t inventive… tickets cost £15.

During the festival there will also be opportunities to tour Barley Hall by candlelight and to experience the Minster at night.

How do I get there?

If you are a committed Park & Ride fan you will be pleased to hear that additional services will be operating during the festival from Museum Street to Rawcliffe Bar Park & Ride site (Green line, Route 2) and from Piccadilly to Grimston Bar Park and Ride site (Yellow line, Route 8) each evening. Buses will leave at 8.30pm, 9pm, 9.30pm and 10pm.


  • Illuminating York takes place from Wednesday October 30th to Saturday November 2nd
  • For full details on all the events visit the website