Lumiere London was a free light festival that took place in the capital from 18th-21st January 2018. Staged across six main sites, the festival showcased 57 installations by international artists, all exploring the power of light.
Among these was Echelle, an artwork by British artist Ron Haselden. For the past twenty years, Haselden has committed to working with the drawings of those who are least visible and vocal in our society, such as children, prisoners and older people, transposing their creations into large-scale light sculptures showcased in public spaces.
As a septuagenarian, he is dedicated to shedding a new light on the stories of these under-represented groups. Echelle, an iconic 10-metre neon ladder, rendered in a bewitching shade of pink, sat atop the landmark church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square. Playful and inspiring, the artwork was a reminder to enjoy the magic of daily life.
Artichoke also offered a community programme working with outer London boroughs on the creation of artworks, including Entre les rangs, by Canadian artist Rami Bebawi. Those involved collaborated to install thousands of light-reflecting plastic stems, which together formed the appearance of an urban wheat field. Artichoke recruited older participants through Green Shoes Arts, an organisation dedicated to participatory arts in Barking & Dagenham, who joined with others of all ages to assemble the artwork in Lewis Cubitt Park, King's Cross over three days. The positive effects of social interaction across task-based activities undertaken in a supportive environment were evident on our older participants.
'[I] thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being part of the team assembling Bebawi's installation. It was so much fun being with such a great group of people of all ages ['¦] I gained an insight into the organisation and tasks involved in developing a working relationship with others. A sense of accomplishment was felt at the end of every days' work and finally seeing the installation lit in all its glory was quite an ego-boost, knowing that I had had a small part in re-creating something unique and beautiful, which thousands of people were enjoying' Melody (Participant).
Artichoke's digital strategy also aimed to include positive messaging to potentially hesitant visitors. Across social media including Twitter and Facebook, Artichoke offered advice on the less crowded festival areas, encouraging audience members to make their way to these quieter spots. The festival website included Transport for London accessibility information about recommended tube stations for those with access needs, and information for Blue Badge users. Difficult to access areas were pointed out in the FAQs.
Artichoke's vision is to make art accessible to all, including older people. By placing works in the public domain, we ensure that the widest possible audience can experience artworks by older practitioners like Ron Haselden, and feel part of a wider community, collectively enjoying the delight of discovery.
Photography by Matthew Andrews.