So Christmas has come and gone (phew). The Christmas lights on Regent and Oxford Street have been packed up for another year. Even the iconic lights of Piccadilly Circus, London's Time Square have been shut down until the fall 2017 to go through a major upgrade. Did you know that aside from World War ll and the funerals of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana these lights have not ever been turned off.
So what is London thinking? Right on top of Blue Monday as well, known as the most depressing time of the year. Seriously, the holidays are over, you have gained five pounds (which you swore you would not let happen again this year) your credit card bills have arrived in full sobering force, spring is no where in sight, you have already broken all your New Year resolutions and you have not been able to shake that 4 week long cold. So is London in the dark? Not a chance. This city makes the most of their very long winter nights (that start at 4 in the afternoon). So even though some of the lights of London have been shut down, others have been springing up. Here are two of the most colourful, brightly lit places I visited to help make the most of the long, London winter nights.
Winter Lights Festival at Canary Wharf
31 international artists showcase some of their most inventive pieces working with light and sound. A lot of the work is interactive and it requires you as a viewer to participate to further create the artist's vision. I don't recommend going on a rainy night as lot of the exhibits are outside and there is a bit of a walk required between exhibits. The Winter Lights festival has a lot to see but here are a few of my personal highlights.
Angels Of Freedom
Angels of Freedom. Five different set of giant angel wings and halos where you can put yourself in the picture and become an angel.
This is a large installation that is surrounded by sound, water and light. Looks a little like a egg shaped spaceship. You can walk in and get immersed in its size and incredible visuals from every angle.
On Your Wavelength
One of the trippiest exhibits is where the light, music and sound is controlled by the participants mind via an EEG headset. You stand in front of this large scale light tunnel fitted with over 30,000 lights and your mind creates the journey that you will experience. It looks like you are in your own personal Sci-Fi movie....actually you are.
Another exhibit I enjoyed was the Canadian exhibit called Digital Skin. You can be digitally painted with light and visual images by a friend or by the charming artist himself, Mateo. He then shoots a short video that gets emailed to you that you can share it on social media..or on a blog.
Here they project giant colourful images on a wall of water and mist that becomes the canvas for this art form. The eerie sounds also adds to the overall experience.
So if you are in London and want to see this, (and I highly recommend you do) it is only around to January 27 and it is free.
And far away...on the other side of town in Chiswick they have begun celebrating the Chinese New Year with The Magical Lantern Festival. Although Chinese New Year is not officially until January 28th London has already started to break out the red lanterns. I will report back on that celebration as I have been told that outside of China London has the biggest celebration of the Chinese New Year. Should be quite the party. I am guessing we will be seeing a lot of red.
Magical Lantern Festival
The Magical Lantern Festival is a colourful enchanting one hour night-time walk through Chiswick Gardens where these giant lanterns would tell stories of Chinese history or transport you with some iconic images around world. It did have a Disneyesque feel to the place and I had to fight against my very strong urge to burst into song and sing, It's a Small World After All, as some of the lantern exhibits felt like they escaped from a theme park. Still impressive.
I personally loved that France and UK celebrated shoes in bright lights. Shoes need much more celebrating in my opinion.
But there were also the more traditional Chinese influences with the camels travelling the Silk Road, or their traditional red lanterns and temples.
What I thought was genius, about halfway through the park as my frozen toes and fingers where telling me I have had enough there were these fire pits and they were selling over a dozen different types of homemade marshmallows to roast. I bought myself a toasted coconut marshmallow and roasted it over the over fire.
Honestly I cannot recall ever enjoying something so much as I did that marshmallow. I am contimplating returning just for the marshmallows. Tickets are £18 for adults and £12 for children (the marshmallow £1.50). It is a nice thing to do on winter's night but dress warm. It wraps up Feb 1.
So thank you London. I, for one appreciate all the things you are doing to make the cold dark, bleak winters more beautiful and bearable. And again...a special shout out to those wonderful.. WONDERFUL people with the homemade marshmallows. You bet I am still dreaming about them.