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Light festival draws millions to Lyon

Light festival draws millions to Lyon
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The city of Lyon has once again drawn millions of visitors for its annual Festival of Lights.

Already world-famous for its gastronomy, Lyon is also a global pioneer when it comes to urban lighting.

“Many cities around the world want to copy what we’re doing because they know that light is magic, light is what brings warmth to the heart on a December night,” said the mayor of Lyon, Gérard Collomb.

The festival was born from a religious celebration, when the city honours the Virgin Mary every year on December 8th.

This year, fashion designers were invited to take part in the show. French lingerie designer Chantal Thomas brought colour and warmth to the cold winter night with her flower-themed videos. And world-famous French fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac – who has created outfits for celebrities like Madonna, Vanessa Paradis and Lady Gaga – said the aim of his mystical installation entitled “Lost Paradise” was to recapture nature in an urban context.

“I can’t help thinking about God when I see light, light is what brings hope, really,” said Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.

The festival saw the inauguration of a new tunnel under the Croix-Rousse quarter – and the light show inside the tunnel is scheduled to remain as permanent fixture after the event. Finding a way of projecting the pictures along the vaulted ceiling was a real challenge for the artists:

“The trick was to transform the pictures by using anamorphosis… by distorting the projection in order to project the pictures on the archway and along the length of the tunnel,” said Hélène Richard, artistic director at the Skertzò artistic agency.

As usual, Place des Terreaux, one of Lyon’s main squares – which is also home to the townhall – featured one of the most impressive light and sound shows.

The festival is funded by taxpayers as well as a number of private companies.

“Half of the funding comes from the city and the half comes from private partners. This is a showroom for them, a chance to show off new technology,” said Lyon’s deputy mayor for culture, Georges Képénékian. “It’s about innovation, the link between culture, industry, businesses and tourism, a chance for our city to spread its influence,” he added.

Among the main attractions, the facade of St Paul’s train station was given an impressive make-over:

“We wanted to make reference to Lyon’s historical role in the textile industry, so we chose to dress the facade of the train station with pictures of clothes, tapestry and things like that,” said interior designer and architect, Helen Eastwood.

Along the river Rhone, birdsnest-like installations were hung up in the trees, turning a riverside stroll into a gentle, poetic experience at nightfall.

“I think the right name for this is Land Art, what we want to do is to give a feeling of light through these installations. It’s not about light for light’s sake, it’s about experiencing light through matter,” said artist Eric Barry.

Chinese artist Li Li set up a Chinese Corner in the heart of the city’s Parc de la Tete d’Or – the installation will also go on show in the Chinese city of Canton in Guangdong province.

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