Review: Liverpool Light Night 2016

Colour Fall - Arena, photo by artinliverpool
Colour Fall - Arena, photo by artinliverpool

Light Night 2016
Everywhere (in Liverpool City Centre)

Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith

On Friday Night, Liverpool stayed open and filled itself with art, music, theatre and basically anything else you can name. Frustratingly though, no matter how hard I tried to plan my evening, I kept arriving at venues just in time for applause. So my record of Light Night 2016, might be a little different to yours.

What I can comment on though, with absolute certainty, is that the number of people filling the streets with the sole intention of doing something different on a Friday night was inspiring. When there’s something to see, Liverpool never seems to fail to take a good hard look, with anyone and everyone flowing in and out of The Black-E, the Everyman filled to bursting point and A Small Cinema struggling to find people a seat. The spaces that deserve bigger audiences find them on Light Night every year, the challenge is to keep that energy going until the next one.

The biggest difficulty, that is probably unavoidable, is the haste at which you have to see it. It’s where Light Night falls down. It is almost impossible to see every space, and completely impossible to see every thing. And that’s a shame, because a world where the Kazimier Gardens has a performance of Krapp’s Last Tape, and I can’t make time to see it, is a world I’m not too pleased about. But some spaces, a Small Cinema in particular, found the balance. Their one minute films allowed dropping in and out in a way that didn’t frighten their viewers. The biggest success.

One thing you might have seen too – and not something that was at all a part of the official programme – was the regular Critical Mass bike ride, fortunately taking place on the second Friday of the month, which fell on Light Night this year. Critical Mass is a cycling community who’s aim is to campaign for road cycling in cities across the UK. The reality is a group of people, having a swift pint, then annoying drivers on purpose. This year though, what came of their ride, was an exciting and intriguing addition to Light Night, roaming the streets and proving that if enough people care about one thing, they can have a serious impact, even if they have no association with proceedings.

The more general success of the event though, was the galleries which stayed open into the night, with special events. Open Eye kept their temporary dark room open to give demonstrations from exhibiting artist Phoebe Kiely; 104 Duke Street presented The Dark Side of Light Night to a packed house; Arena Studios was host to a mass of ‘art making machines’; and Road Studios who subjected their studio holders to public scrutiny with a choice of interactive work.

In a night full of missed performances and late arrivals, the galleries provided the perfect constant against the action packed performance and music venues. They made themselves the hubs for the evening, where the public gathered between bands, and between the ordinary tourist attractions. A stopping point to stand and remember that within all the music and film this is an art festival, run by Open Culture, a group of artists, filled with hundreds of artists. On the whole, I’ve come away really excited about the evening, and only a tiny bit disappointed that most of what I saw was the final seconds of every event.

Events were staged at venues large and small across the city, including Tate Liverpool, 104 Duke Street Studios, Baltic Creative, Road Studios, St George’s Hall, Liverpool Medical Institution, the Everyman, Liverpool Small Cinema, dot-art, LIPA and many more. Principal festival sponsor Liverpool John Moores University also opened on the night for hands-on talks, science demonstrations and light installations.

Merseyside Transport Trust was on hand to ferry festivalgoers from one event to another, providing a free heritage bus service that looped the city.

LightNight took place thanks to sponsorship from LJMU and Liverpool BID Company and is funded by Liverpool City Council and Arts Council England.

For the first time festivalgoers also partied even later than usual as the first official LightNight after party was held at Constellations in the Baltic Triangle, with all proceeds from ticket sales going towards keeping the festival going in future years.

Plans are already underway for next year’s LightNight on Friday 19 May 2017