15 Dec 2011

Travel: Fete des Lumieres - Lyon, France

On December 8th I was lucky enough to travel to Lyon, France to witness first hand the annual Fete des Lumieres (Festival of Lights) which sees 4 million people visit the city over the course of a few magical nights. Buildings seemingly come alive as images and light are cleverly projected on to their ancient walls; residents decorate their windowsills with colourful tealights; and streets are closed to traffic and festooned with lanterns. Even the streetlights get a make-over, their glass being covered with coloured gells to tint the winding lanes in an enchanting spectrum of colours.  
The festival began in the 17th centuary as a way for the locals of Lyon to offer thanks and praise to the Virgin Mary after she miraculously lifted the onslaught of the plague from the city. To this day, banners proclaiming Mercy Maria hang from buildings and many visit the city's magnificant cathedral to light a candle and place it at her feet. These days, though still religious at its core, the Fete des Lumieres is just as much an excuse for families to take to the streets, revel in the beauty of their beloved city and sip on vin chaud!

The basilica by day and then by night:
The Cathedral by day and then by night:
As I was visiting the festival in my editorial capacity, I got a chance to chat with some of the designers of various light shows around the city. The most impressive of these took place in the Place des Terreaux and involvied animated video projections carefully mapped to match the exterior of the grand old buildings in the town square. Designer Marie-Jeanne Gauthe told me over lunch: "The biggest challenge of a project like this is coming up with something completely different each year. However, this year another big challenge is the full moon! It acts like a projector beam in itself so will change the way my designs look up on the buildings. I'm praying for a cloudy night!"

I had a great time at the Fete des Lumieres, but now have so much transcribing and writing to do to create my first cover-feature for the January issue of the magazine I work for. The downside of the event? My expensive camera got water-bombed! Luckily (*touch wood*), it seems to have made a full recovery! Mercy Maria! 


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