The year the voices of Liverpool made a difference. I don’t think I’ll remember LightNight 2018 any other way.
There were the usual street performances, transformations of the city’s most beautiful buildings and cross disciplinary works that get people out and on to the streets, but it was the more intimate events that captured the imagination this year at LightNight, and poetry defined my night.
It was a shame not to see more city centre studios fling open their doors this year, but the ones that did shone. The Royal Standard said goodbye to one of their best shows yet at Northern Lights, and Rob Flynn’s full gallery installation at ROAD Studios completely transformed its space, but I did miss the rest.
It was the Everyman and Open Eye that made me stop though; stop completely in my tracks and think again about how artists can represent themselves.
Open Eye went into storage for LightNight, quite literally covering up their brilliant Snapshot to WeChat exhibition, and handing the entire gallery over to Pauline Rowe, their writer in residence.
Working with AJ Wilkinson, a photographer who in 2015 came to the end of a 25 year relationship, Pauline Rowe set out to communicate the sense of loss faced by anyone at that point in their life. Together, the pair collaborated on finding a true synthesis between word and image to tell a story in separate ways.
The connection of the two innately similar mediums gives two unique perspectives on loss, and that was perfectly reflected in the curatorial decisions of Open Eye Gallery’s Thomas Dukes to lose the gallery for that evening, giving the pedestal instead to Pauline Rowe, who transformed the space, and stretched the use of poetry into something really unique.
Perhaps that set my mood for the night, but after that, and a swift walk up to Hope Street I found myself in the basement of the Everyman, following signs to something I’d not planned on seeing, and finding myself immersed in an evening of spoken word. The voices; the plans; the conflict; the joy that came out of the basement completely redirected how I saw LightNight – and probably how I’ll see it from now on.
It’s just one night where artists and audiences come together and, on occasion, make things happen. This was one of them, with poets who planned to speak, and those who didn’t, and an audience supporting speakers and those who, like me, just turned up unwitting.
Listening to poetry, verse and dialogue from people who don’t consider themselves artists, but have a clarity of opinion that allows them to commit a thought to paper was such a refreshing hit of Liverpool, and I sincerely cannot wait to see more of the group, and the products of what they’re doing.
From there I walked over to The Well, one of many unofficial spaces to open up for LightNight, for the first of their three acts in a new exhibition series being honest about materials, and ended the evening staring at a road sign outside Lime Street Station.
Stanza, by John Elcock, was one of seven new commissions by Open Culture for LightNight this year, sitting firmly between poetry, installation, intervention and traffic signalling. The comfortable mix of genres, in a site where these public notices usually go, ironically, unnoticed, topped off a night where visual art and poetry collided.
The collaged poem brought together extracts of John Elcock’s published poetry, using a device most recognized for warning to create a place for reflection.
Reflection is what summed up the festival this year. A year where the quieter spaces shone brightest, finding new ways of understanding and seeing the city we inhabit.
LightNight will be back in 2019
Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith