150,000 see the light at Durham’s Lumiere

Cedric Le Borgne with one of his pieces from the Les Voyageurs installation at Durham Lumiere.
Cedric Le Borgne with one of his pieces from the Les Voyageurs installation at Durham Lumiere.
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LIGHT festival Lumiere attracted more than 150,000 visitors to Durham City.

The event, which ran from last Thursday to Sunday, was today hailed a massive success.

DURHAM OFFICE DURHAM CITY LUMIERE LIGHT FESTIVAL''PICTURED.........Visitors watch the Crown of light at Durham Cathedral.'PIC DAVID WOOD'17-11-11

DURHAM OFFICE DURHAM CITY LUMIERE LIGHT FESTIVAL''PICTURED.........Visitors watch the Crown of light at Durham Cathedral.'PIC DAVID WOOD'17-11-11

However, the sheer volume of people flocking to see the installations, laid on at a cost of £1million, has led to criticism surrounding the organisation and stewardship of the event.

While there has been positive feedback on the 35 displays around the city – which included a giant snow globe in Market Place and an interactive dance floor in Wharton Park – some visitors left unhappy.

One-way systems caused confusion, and long diversions left people annoyed, while unlit pathways, slippery in places, were also a cause of concern.

Families also turned back from the city because of traffic, with the park and ride schemes at full capacity.

DURHAM OFFICE DURHAM CITY LUMIERE LIGHT FESTIVAL''PICTURED.........The lantern parade ahead of the opening to the 2011 Lumiere light festival.'PIC DAVID WOOD'17-11-11

DURHAM OFFICE DURHAM CITY LUMIERE LIGHT FESTIVAL''PICTURED.........The lantern parade ahead of the opening to the 2011 Lumiere light festival.'PIC DAVID WOOD'17-11-11

A spokeswoman for organiser Artichoke said: “An estimated 150,000 people came in to the city and the population of Durham is 36,000.

“It was managed and, at times, it was very busy. People had to be patient and wait a bit.

“That’s what happens when you have a lot of people and there were no incidents and the police and the emergency services were very happy, as were Durham County Council.”

Organisers have said they acknowledge some people may have been unhappy with the crowds and safety measures. It has said if the festival returns in the future, the plans will be assessed and approved by a Safety Management Group once again.

Nicky Webb, co-director of Artichoke, said: “I think overall we’ve had really good feedback and lots of good press basically saying it was a triumph.

“We’re happy with how it went.

“We had 35 different artworks and probably 25 of those were out of the peninsula and that was planned so people could get around and see them if they didn’t want to be in the crowd.”

She added that businesses had responded to calls to stay open longer to advantage of the extra trade and also heard hotels and restaurants did a roaring trade during the festival.

She said it was too early to say whether the festival would make a return, with the true figure and amount of cash it put in to the area’s economy still to be totted up.

Discussions have previously been held about whether the evening’s proceedings could start earlier, but the suggestion was ruled out by road and transport experts, and there was a greater cost in running Lumiere over a longer period of time.

Mayor of Durham Coun Les Thompson said: “It’s wonderful to see the number of people in the city and coming in to see something so fantastic.

“It can only be a good thing for Durham.”

The first Lumiere attracted 75,000 people and gave the area a £1.1million boost.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham