LightNight Liverpool 2016 review and pictures from Cathedral and across the city

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IMMIX Ensemble featuring Liverpool Cathedral Youth Choir perform Bill Ryder-Jones’ No Worst, There is None at Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool (photo by Glyn Ackroyd)

Light Night saw people enthralled across the city with a variety of music, arts and performance, Getintothis’ Cath Bore, Denise Hodgkinson and Amaan Khan deliver their reflection and highlights.

In Liverpool, we can get a little cocky over culture. We’ve got so much of the stuff, yet day to day we walk blindly past the wealth of museums, galleries, big grand buildings and statues without turning our heads. So it’s fortunate we have the annual LightNight celebrations to swat us, albeit politely, around the back of the head and make us see and value what we have.

To do something different on a Friday night is LightNight’s advice, and this evening Getintothis does exactly that.

A warm summer evening helps as we wander through the city centre, drinking it all in. Starting at teatime, the Bluecoat garden has people sketching and reading, listening to music, the DJ playing a sitar interpretation of Jumping Jack Flash. That’s different, for sure. Summer Breeze by The Isley Brothers comes on next, and the garden starts to fill with families. A woman waddles in with a double bass bigger than she is, and there’s a giant bird cage mic-ed up in the courtyard. We’re intrigued, but must plough on.

CassArt on School Lane arrange paints and brushes and a trestle out on the pavement outside their shop with the instruction “make a spash”. Intended to amuse children, we suspect, but we can’t resist playing at being Picasso anyway. There’s something playful about LightNight, and not in an adult colouring book sort of way.  It’s all very European, and fun.

More happenings are outside the immediate city centre tonight, so we head out of town. The geographical spread of LightNight shows the growing, expanding nature of Liverpool’s culture, how it flows away from Liverpool’s main arteries. It’s clouding over a little overhead now, but no matter; it’s the Secret Baltic Triangle Walking Tour next. Nico from Liverpool Secret Tours takes us on a 45 minute journey. We learn that Liverpool boasts the most street art and graffiti than nearly any other city in UK, outdone only by London and Bristol. He leads us to the 200 year old oil company now selling up, to be replaced with student accommodation, then backstage, so to speak, inside Baltic Creative itself, new and small businesses starting out. A happy ending, of sorts.

Love LightNight and looking for more? Be sure to check out our 2016 festival guide for Liverpool and beyond. 

This year’s theme is Experiments and the event at the Redmond Building was dedicated to experimental film, with the evening beginning with two short films The Last Resort and Gnomes, showcasing the work of the Liverpool Screen School where the screening was held.

Up next was a short set of live music by Dave Jackson and the Cathedral Mountaineers, including some of the songs from the film to follow. Some of these songs are re-imaginings of those from one of Jackson’s previous bands, Benny Profane. These songs are some of his best work, with an eclectic mix of styles, the laid-back vocals underpinned by the soaring harmonies of the choirgirls.

The main feature of the evening was the presentation of Violet City which was written by Dave Jackson and directed by John Maxwell, both film lecturers at John Moore’s University. It is a steampunk extravaganza, set in a fantasy city which is an amalgam of several European cities, with star billing for the Liver Buildings and the Albert Dock. The characters of Lady Escargoza and Lord Splain, played by Yvonne Marsden and Jeff Young respectively, provide an anchor in the maelstrom of the rambling and multi-layered storyline, which encompasses elements of science fiction, horror, German Expressionism and Restoration Comedy. Airships hang in the air over a city that seethes with violence and sordid antics. The battle of four dynasties and the bleak look of the landscape suggests Game of Thrones crossed with a computer game. The hypnotic music and the droning of the airships and machines added to the drug-fuelled escapades adds to the trippy feel.

Not for the faint-hearted certainly but a feast for the senses and an experience not to be forgotten in a hurry.

At the Anglican Cathedral, LightNight is all about poetic music and visuals. By 9pm, the big cathedral is filled with people many of whom have stuck around from the previous programs and many who are entering in an endless line of people that decided to arrive just in time for the orchestral tribute to Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, No Worst, There is None. The remaining space of the cathedral is occupied by playing children.

Bill Ryder-Jones composition, arranged by IMMIX Ensemble’s Daniel Thorne, is an ambient homage to its namesake poem. With lush harmonies created by the cathedral’s choir, the orchestra, piano and also the church organ that ends the piece, the music tries to recreate the dark and yearning atmosphere of the poem (such as found in lines like “All life death does end and each day dies with sleep“). It gathers gospel-ish loftiness as it reverberates through the cathedral walls. The atmospheric music is further supported by Sam and Damien Wiehl’s monochromatic visuals of mountains, tunnels, ambiguous shapes etc., and also by a midway reading of the poem.

After thirty minutes of music, murmurs and children’s laughter, the beautiful evening seems all about the poem which the music pays respect to with a little help from the cleverly constructed aesthetics; a collaboration of modern and classical art that Beethoven (in his healthier days) might even have approved.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Christopher Flack and Glyn Ackroyd 

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