Lights out! Illuminating York cancelled for 2017 – but it will be back next year

29 Mar 2017 @ 7.12 pm
| Entertainment, News

In its eight year history, Illuminating York has dazzled the city.

Light artists from around the world have transformed Clifford’s Tower into a kaleidoscope, shape-shifted the Castle Museum, hung glitter balls over Shambles and lit up the Minster with lasers.

Tens of thousands of people from the city and beyond have come together in the city centre to enjoy the light show, much of which was provided free.

But come autumn half term this year, York will stay in the dark – as Illuminating York 2017 has been cancelled.

Going biennial

Make It York announced on Wednesday (March 29) that Illuminating York will be staged every two years from now on, instead of annually.

And it will become a centrepiece in the city’s new international media arts festival, the York Mediale, in October. That is designed to celebrate York’s unique status as the UNESCO City of Media Arts.

Putting on the four-day Illuminating York festival each year is a significant undertaking. Last year’s event had a budget of £190K, half of which came from the Arts Council.

It is understood that Make It York decided that applying for funds for an IY festival this year, and the subsequent work to stage the event, would divert resources needed to ensure the Mediale is a success.

‘Time to think differently’

Glitter balls on Shambles in 2015… Photograph: Anthony Chappel-Ross

York’s cultural leaders took the decision to go ahead with the Mediale earlier this month – despite being turned down for Arts Council funding.

Make It York MD Steve Brown said:

York Mediale will be a celebration and a showcase of the city’s UNESCO City of Media Arts accreditation and Illuminating York will be one of the key highlights.

This means we’ll be able to pool resources and budget to create something exceptional for York.

It’s crucial we use what funding we have to create quality festivals and the time is right to think differently about illuminating York, ensuring it meets increasing audience expectations.

Running the event biennially, as a key part of the York Mediale will enable us to do that and to focus on delivering a world class event in 2018.

The very best in 2018

Illuminating York in 2013. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr

Illuminating York was first held in 2009 and was developed to encourage visitors and residents to discover York in a new light.

Some of York’s most beautiful and historic buildings have been lit up since then.

“The biggest light festival in the UK is Durham’s Lumiere which happens every two years and is widely regarded as one of the best,” Mr Brown said.

“Delivering quality festivals needs time, resource and funding and our aim now is to focus on creating the very best international festival for York in 2018.

“Our commitment to enhancing illuminating York will be a crucial part of that.”