It will be curiouser and curiouser in Museum Gardens tonight when darkness falls and strange coloured lights turn the landscape into a mad hatter’s world.

Comedian and artist Vic Reeves and £500,000 of illuminations have combined to bring a surreal wonderland to the historic buildings and ten acres of gardens for this year’s Illuminating York festival.

Organisers hope the public will get involved by taking part in a projection of dancing figures on to the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey or powering bicycles with wings of light.

Among the surreal visions will a giant elephant seal and the entire facade of the Yorkshire Museum transformed into a moving projection of music, pictures and colour.

The choice of Alice In Wonderland for inspiration marks a departure from previous festivals which have concentrated on exploring York’s history.

“Art should be fun,” said Reeves, who uses his real name Jim Moir for his art work.

“I have ideas and If I think they are funny or peculiar I draw them. I draw because I get a kick out of it. It is my drug. I am just doing what I do and it is projected on to a building that is Georgian.”

Coun Sonja Crisp, of City of York Council, said: “The scale and ambition of this year’s festival will be truly spectacular.

“We have never attempted anything this big before and after seeing the plans I can’t wait to see the gardens transformed into a magical and surreal experience right here in the centre of York.”

Illuminating York opens tonight and runs until Saturday.

Several other historic buildings including York Minster are putting on their own light-inspired displays as part of the festival.