Light Night goes to new heights to give Leeds a ray of hope

The skies above Leeds will be illuminated by a spectacular interactive laser display later this month when Light Night Leeds presents a new kind of cultural extravaganza.

Specially designed to allow people to enjoy the event safely, remotely and in line with social distancing, Laser Light City will give residents all across the city the chance to take charge of an incredible crisscrossing network of light beams shining from the rooftops of seven Leeds buildings.

Visible from miles around, the colours, movement and pattern of the impressive display, which is sponsored by The Light, can be controlled using a smartphone, tablet or computer and watched either in person, at home or via a live online video stream.

Created by BAFTA winning artist Seb Lee, the event on October 22-24 will be the first in stunning series of illuminated art works taking place through the autumn and winter, all aimed at bringing the city some light relief during an incredibly difficult year.

Seb said: “Arts events have become so few and far between recently because of coronavirus, and I wanted to do something that enables people to express their creativity in a unique and playful way.

“When else in your life would you have full control of huge sky lasers using your phone? It will be the first time we have done something of this scale in a city, and I hope it will be a spectacular and memorable experience for people of all ages in Leeds.”

Leeds has become known across the world for its hugely popular Light Night events over the past 15 years. But restrictions in place to control the spread of COVID-19 and a vastly reduced budget have meant that the city’s usual October Light Night Festival has had to evolve and adapt.

For this year’s events, people are not being encouraged to travel into the city centre in large numbers or to gather in specific spaces, but instead enjoy events from a distance or remotely, over the course of the coming months.

Other installations presented by Light Night this autumn will include two new semi-permanent light artworks in the waterfront area which will reflect on the experiences of 2020.

A new text artwork with the message ‘I MISS YOU’ by Romanian artists Daisler Association will be installed at Leeds Dock in October, reflecting on all the things we have missed this year, including cultural and social events.

Then in November a large rainbow, GLORY, crafted in neon by local young people and Wakefield based Neon Workshops, will be installed on Water Lane, echoing the rainbow symbols used to thank NHS and keyworkers during the pandemic.

The British Library have also commissioned a new online digital artwork, Faint Signals, by Invisible Flock. Set in an imagined Yorkshire landscape and using the Library’s vast archive of digitised nature sounds, the work will launch online on November 10.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “This has already been an incredibly difficult year for the people of Leeds and there remains so much uncertainty over what the future may hold. It’s in these circumstances where culture and its unfailing power to bring hope, unity and optimism is more important than ever.

“Light Night is one of our city’s most popular occasions and while we’re not able to host it in its usual format, an incredible amount of creativity has gone into organising a series of stunning events and installations which people can enjoy safely, remotely and in line with current rules and guidance.

“We hope sharing these events even at a distance will help people in Leeds to remember that no matter what, we are all still connected, we’re all in this together and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Light Night Leeds events will begin with Laser Light City on October 22-24 from 6pm until 11pm.

The experience can be seen from all over the city so there is no need to gather in a particular place. Anyone enjoying Light Night wherever they are is encouraged not to gather in groups, practice social distancing, wash and sanitise hands regularly and wear masks on public transport.

The festival hopes to return to its full programme in 2021 when the theme will be around nature and the environment.

This year’s events would not be possible without the contribution of many partners and sponsors including The Light, CEG, Wellington Place, Channel 4, Victoria Leeds, Reed Smith, Yorkshire Building Society, British Library, The Canal and River Trust, Waterfront Enhancement Fund and ASK Richardson.

Stephanie James, marketing manager at The Light, said: “This year The Light felt it was vital to support Light Night Leeds and help showcase this fantastic city across the region. At a time of a great worry, Laser Light City will help to shed a light of positivity upon Leeds and provide a much needed distraction from the current situation.”

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