YORK'S most famous street is in for a radical makeover.

There are plans to suspend up to 40 mirrorballs in a long line above head height down the centre of Shambles. At night, as you walk along, images reflecting the street's history as the 'street of butchers' - sausages, pork chops and the like - will be bounced off them, keeping you company as you walk.

You think we're joking? Not at all. But you may (or may not) be relieved to hear that it will be only temporary.

Yes, Illuminating York will be back next month.

It is the light festival's tenth anniversary - and it coincides with UNESCO's 'international year of light and light technology', so organisers were determined to make this year's event something special.

The result? A walking route has been created around the city centre that will lead you from one light show to another.

York Press:

A mock-up of burning candles projected onto the pavement in front of St Michael-le-Belfry

Specially hand-crafted lamps in the windows of shops and businesses, each of them unique, will guide you on the way.

The trail will begin and end at Museum Gardens - the only part of this year's festival you'll have to pay to see. The Gardens will be transformed into a night-time garden celebrating their botanical history.

From there, the route will go down Lendal to the Mansion House, where the passageway leading through to Guildhall will be be home to an ethereal cloud lit by LED lighting.

At points along the route you'll be able to dance with the shadows of strangers. And three city centre churches - St Helen's, All Saints Pavement and St Michael-le-Belfrey - will form a single work of art, each with its own version of light shows involving candles.

It will probably be Shambles that will be most spectacular, though.

"It will be transformed," says York-based independent arts consultant Hazel Colquhoun, who with Andrew Knight is the artistic director of this year's festival.

So it will be, for four days at least.

Here's our guide to what you can expect to see at this year's festival, which runs from Wednesday October 28 to Saturday October 31, from 6pm-10pm each night...

Museum Gardens

'Illuminata Botanica', by light artists Mark Anderson, Jony Easterby and Ulf Pederson. Admission by ticket - prices yet to be confirmed.

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How Museum Gardens might look

All normal lighting in the 10 acre gardens will be switched off, and instead there will be a series of light and sound installations celebrating the gardens' botanical past. Unusual trees and plants will be picked out in soft light; there will be 'firefly effect' displays; and the sounds of aeolian harps. It all sounds a bit like the setting for Shakespeare's The Tempest (or possibly a Midsummer Night's Dream) and potentially quite magical. Numbers in the gardens at any one time will be limited, so you get the full effect of a peaceful night-time garden. Hazel Colquhoun reckons it will take 40-45 minutes to see everything. "There are all sorts of spaces and places in the gardens that people don't necessarily notice normally," she says. This will be your chance to see them in a different light...


York Press:

Dance with strangers' shadows in Shadowing

Once you leave Museum Gardens, everything else you see as you follow the route around the city centre - down Lendal to the Mansion House and St Helen's Square, down Davygate and Parliament Street to All Saints Pavement, up through Shambles, King's Square and Petergate to St Michael-le-Belfry, and then back to Museum Gardens - will be free.

At several points along the route you'll encounter a light-and-shadow installation called Shadowing. Streetlights will have been modified, so that they can record the shadows of passing people, then play them back a few seconds or half a minute later. It will give you the chance to dance with the shadows of other people - or even with the shadows you yourself left a few seconds ago. Originally developed in Bristol, usually people end up choreographing their movements and 'dancing with themselves', says Hazel.

Mansion House

Suspended in the passageway that runs past the Mansion House down to the Guildhall will be an artificial cloud-like structure hand-made by artist Esther Rolinson. It is actually made from hand-cut polypropylene, folded into a series of intricate geometric shapes and lit from within. "It will be like having an illuminated cloud floating above you," says Hazel.

York Press:

An early version of one of Esther Rolinson's cloud-like structures

In the Guildhall itself, meanwhile, students from York St John University will put on SPARK - two lightshow artworks created by fine art graduates.

St Helen's, All Saints and St Michael-le-Belfry churches

Each church will have its own candle-inspired light show. At St Helen's, a giant candle will seem to burn in the niche just below the lantern tower. A giant 3-D 'candle' will burn in the lantern tower at All Saints, Pavement. Meanwhile, hundreds of burning candles will seem to be projected onto the pavement at the feet of St Michael-le-Belfry.


The mirrorball lightshow in Shambles will be known as Share the Revolution. And as Helen says, Shambles will, for a few nights only, be completely transformed.

"Reflected showers of light will stream from mirror balls throughout the length of this amazing street, creating an intense and all-encompassing experience that gives glimpses of Shambles' medieval past while also reflecting its present," says the publicity information.

York Press:

An early artist's impression of how Shambles might look

You'll judge for yourselves: but it does sound as though it could be pretty amazing...

  • Illuminating York will run from Wednesday October 28 to Saturday October 31. As usual, in addition to the main events, there will be a whole series of fringe events. More details, as well as details of ticket prices for the Museum Gardens show, will be available soon at illuminatingyork.org.uk/