Lumiere London was totally underwhelming

Installations were switched off due to overcrowding


The hype surrounding this year’s Lumiere couldn’t be ignored. The light festival – a sister event to the annual celebration in Durham – saw a collection of light-based installations on display around Piccadilly, Westminster and King’s Cross.

Roads were closed as thousands of tourists flocked to the capital to see what is essentially something we see everyday: light. It’s unsurprising then that despite all the big name backers such as Arts Council England and the Mayor of London, visitors have criticised the event’s organisers, Artichoke, for the lack of crowd control and the fact several installations were switched off due to overcrowding. To add to the general chaos, King’s Cross had to be evacuated due to overcrowding and safety concerns – making a crush as those trying to get out were pushed back by those trying to get in.

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Possibly worth it just for the cliché giant letter shot

Again, to give credit to the artists, the Garden of Light in Leicester Square was pretty cool, as were all the installations down Regent’s Street and round Oxford Circus. Les Luminéoles (those giant fish you’re seeing everywhere on Instagram right now) are actually really beautiful, but all the graceful swooping is kind of ruined by the sea of selfie sticks, the freezing cold, and the obnoxious parents ramming prams into your ankles as they try and cut their way through the crowd.

But where the entire event really felt like a let down was King’s Cross. As soon as we arrived at the station it was absolutely rammed, and it only got worse as we were all herded towards Granary Square. I stood around in a crowd packed tighter than the Northern Line at 8am, all to see a really odd video projection which nobody was sure was aimed at adults or children: it had a flying bus but also used the word “irreverent” to describe a magician, so it’s either intended for easily amused adults, or children that recently digested an entire thesaurus.

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Part of one of the installations near Bond Street

Having braved the cold to visit the installations I’d heard so much about, I left feeling pretty disappointed. That’s not to say the art itself was “bad”, or I can’t appreciate the work that went into creating the installations (I’m the kind of pretentious person who asks for the guest roast at Costa), it’s just the entire event was so poorly managed I spent most of the evening having my personal space invaded.

It’s pretty fortunate I’m not claustrophobic, as the crowds didn’t get any better walking back to King’s Cross. The endless, pointless shoving really wound everyone up and I heard lots of people ringing friends and telling them not to bother and stay at home where it’s warm, peaceful and crowd-free.

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Is it really worth all the crowds?

To really put the metaphorical cherry on the shitty cake, as we took the Tube home to escape the multiplying crowds, alarms were set off and the entire station was evacuated due to a “reported emergency” that TFL say was due to massive overcrowding. There was no real explanation for this at the time, so everyone spilled out onto the streets, where the police presence had suddenly been massively increased. It took another long, arduous hour until I finally collapsed through my front door from sheer exhaustion and the relief of being able to see four feet in front of me without another human being in sight.

I’m not sure if I could summon up the sheer physical strength and endurance required to run the gauntlet next year, unless the organisers actually prepare for the whole of London to descend on a few key locations. There’s a load of Instagram fodder to go with your usual shots of the Shard or the Portico, but maybe it would be more prudent to head to your mate’s place in Durham next year, instead.