LightNight Liverpool 2018 review, pictures and what we learned from this year’s happening



LightNight’s 2018 edition was a city-wide cultural journey into the later hours and Getintothis’ Matthew Eland and Peter Goodbody were there to see the best bits.

LightNight is Liverpool’s cultural binge fest and a sign that spring is well and truly upon us.

Events, happenings, installations and all manner of goings are taking place all over the city, from the Albert Dock to the Cathedrals and all places in between, including an after party at Constellations. It’s a great opportunity to get out and explore places familiar and not, to see an evening exhibition, happen across a gig or just stumble across the weird and wonderful traversing the city.

We kicked off at Dot-Art on Queen Avenue, just off Castle Street for the exhibition Metamorphosis: John Petch x OMD. This was a series of drawings and paintings by Petch who is now well known as the man who designed the artwork for OMD’s most recent album, The Punishment of Luxury. The collection comprised pieces showing the development of the final album design and provided a fascinating insight into the creative process. The early part of the event was ticketed for a “surprise musical performance” and it didn’t take much sleuthing to work out what that meant.

In probably one of the smallest gigs they’ve played for a very long time OMD hit the stage at half an hour after their allotted time of 6.30 and bashed out an enjoyable set of fan faves, starting with Enola Gay and Messages before a selection from the new album. There were only 200 tickets available for this one – about the same as our first gig in Erics supporting Joy Division – said McCluskey, getting a nice little name drop in there. But it was all good natured fun and a special chance to see a big band on a small stage.

A march up to St Lukes for their food and drink hub saw the crowds out in force enjoying the sunshine on a warm spring evening, with queues for pulled pork burgers and bottles of Prosecco. It’s clear LightNight is attracting the numbers. Further up the hill in the Phil Music Room there’s an acoustic night going on with 5 bands playing 10 minute sets throughout the night, so stay for an hour and you’ll see all of them.

We saw St Jude the Obscure, King & Byrne and Chris Callander before it was time to move on. This venue too, was healthily busy and it was great to see so many people taking advantage of the free fare on offer.

Down by the river, after observing a surreal blooming of jellyfish in the Albert Dock, we arrive on Mann Island consumed with thoughts of ocean acidification and the like. Luckily, the Cressington String Orchestra are there to elevate our minds to more celestial matters. The acoustics provided by the foyer are surprisingly good, and we’re sufficiently moved to add our own annotations to the community-built Paper Bridge in the middle of the hall, which represents the ways in which projects like this, especially for the young people in the orchestra, can broaden horizons and reveal new pathways.

The Charlatans talk North By Northwich, changing faces and the future

From there it’s on to Diffringere in RIBA North, an interactive exhibition by Jayson Haebich in which light, amplified through the stimulation of emitted radiation, is broken up into its constituent parts in a small room off the main exhibition.

One moment the colours cast seem to aggregate into neuronal connections, sparking and firing in the half-light; the next, they float and meander like matter on the film of your eyelid. Then they sharpen into fierce little pin-pricks, startling us out of our reveries and sending us ever so slightly west.

Indeed, the theme of ‘light’ seems to have risen much more explicitly to the surface this year. Next door in Open Eye there’s a display of photographs rescued from negatives that were being reprocessed for silver in China; these were rescued by the artist, who was much more interested in the candid and mundane snapshots of everyday life than in something as prosaic as a precious metal.

Over at the British Music Experience is the Singing Mirror, where pools of light are projected onto the floor, and into which curious punters are afforded the opportunity to engage in ever more vigourous displays of flailing and dancing in an effort to manipulate the orchestral flourishes over the PA and kaleidoscopic patterns projected onto screens.

Singing Mirror

Singing Mirror

We’re sceptical as to how much effect we’re having, and leave after an ill-advised lunge through the light nearly sends an innocent bystander flying; but still, fun nonetheless.

The most intense experience of the evening comes in the Baltic Triangle area, when we venture into The Pod and encounter Fleeting by Elizabeth Challinor. We’re warned to be careful as it’s dark inside, and indeed it is, except for the backlight strobe that illuminates text on the seemingly plain white walls.

Anyone who remembers when Zee was on back at FACT in 2011 (and suspects they may still be trapped inside the instillation and that the intervening seven years have been a prolonged hallucination) will appreciate how disorientating the jerking, pulsing sensation is.

The featured phrases say things like “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear” and “I just want to sleep properly again“, and they all radiate social anxiety and information overload; all the more so when the strobe prevents you from seeing the whole phrase – and indeed the whole room – at once. Even if you were to turn the light back on, the UV-markered text would be invisible, which is kind of like a black and white inversion of what would happen if a solar flare wiped out the world’s data storage.

Or something.

It’s possible the neuronal scrambling encountered thus far was beginning to have an adverse effect, and it wasn’t long before we headed back inside to reconnect with reality. Unfortunately, this reconnection took the form of the Baltic Market, where the incongruity of the hen parties and Mumford and Sons cover band was equally, if not even more disorientating.

So we headed to that trusty lode star, that red-stone monolith, the Anglican Cathedral, for the final showing of The Imago, hoping that it might contextualise the evening and cast a light on what we’ve seen.

And what light! A dusty, golden haze amongst the fluted vaults and columns of Giles Gilbert Scott’s masterpiece; beams of criss-crossing white, sweeping up and down like the movement of a moth’s wings. On two screens at the front a Super 8 collage plays, accompanied by tape loops, but this is overshadowed by the arterial red emanating from behind and the dark hooded figures that wander within.

The Imago

The Imago

Never has this holy place looked more satanic. The grandiosity of the architecture is the star of the show here, overshadowing the instillation, and leaving all in attendance open-mouthed and truly awestruck.

In between all the mayhem we also managed to catch Getintothis’ fave troubadour Nick Ellis at the Central Library and the spectacular Bring The Fire project at St George’s Hall.

And with that, LightNight was wrapped up for another year. It’s a treat to see so many people out and about engaging with the city and its culture in so many different ways. From the small to the large it’s always a personal journey and long may that continue.

Images by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody, Marty Saleh, Kevin Barrett and Matthew Eland