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‘It’s been sorely missed’: Spectra is back to light up Aberdeen

Spectra Aberdeen: Trumpet Flowers by Amigo and Amigo on Broad Street is an immersive jungle of light, colour and sound. Pictured: Caitlin Kurtto. Picture by Paul Glendell/DCT Media
Trumpet Flowers by Amigo and Amigo on Broad Street is an immersive jungle of light, colour and sound. Pictured: Caitlin Kurtto. Picture by Paul Glendell/DCT Media

With a stunning display of intriguing and eye-catching installations, the popular light festival Spectra is back following a launch at Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Inspired by Scotland’s Year of Stories in 2022, the festival will be running for four days providing a fun family-friendly experience in the Granite City.

From 6.30pm-10pm on Thursday, February 10 to Sunday, February 13, the interactive light sculptures, film and architectural projections will be lit up for audiences to experience.

It is hoped that it provides a new and exciting way for people to explore the city and to get out and about despite the cold weather.

‘Events truly make a difference to people’s lives’

Speaking at the launch, Jenny Laing, council leader, said: “We’ve been through an incredibly difficult time not just in this city but across the world over the last two years.

“We haven’t had it for a couple of years now and I know it’s been sorely missed.”

Writ Large and Six Frames by Illuminos is one of the artworks on display at Marischal College.<br />Picture by Paul Glendell/DCT Media.

She stressed the importance of investing in cultural buildings such as the newly renovated Aberdeen Art Gallery and Music Hall where some of the exhibitions are on display.

Mrs Laing added: “More important than shiny buildings is actually the investment in cultural organisations and events that truly makes a difference to people’s lives because it allows people to access culture at all different levels within the city.”

Buildings and locations that are set to be lit up this year by works of art are: Marischal College, Union Street, Broad Street, Upperkirkgate, Schoolhill, Marischal Square, and Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Mrs Laing said one of the great things about Spectra is that it brings people into the city centre. She personally was looking forward to many of the exhibitions within the city, especially artworks that reflect the immediate surrounding area.

TOGETHER by Lucid Creates is on display at Castlegate. Picture by Paul Glendell/DCT Media

She said: “The one that I’m looking to really experience is the one at the Castlegate which is taking people’s views about the issues that they’ve had over the last two years they’re memories, their recollections and just you know what hopes they’ve got moving forward.

“I think that shows the local element to the festival as well as some of the wonderful exhibits that have been brought in.”

Changes since the pandemic

Andy Brydon, director at Curated Place which organised the event, also mentioned the importance of bringing life back to city centres.

He said: “Events like Spectra are really getting more and more critical for people to get back out into city centres and to experience why we come together after two years of being locked up.

“It’s been two years of turmoil for the arts sector completely.”

“Critically we need audience support to make that happen without audiences there isn’t a festival it’s just a series of installations.”

In pre-Coivd times, Spectra was attended by tens of thousands of people but the winter weather in Aberdeen coupled with a wariness since the pandemic means less people may be visiting in 2022.

Gaia by Luke Jerram is being displayed at Aberdeen Art Gallery throughout the festival.<br />Picture by Paul Glendell/DCT Media

Alison Brodie, creative producer at Curated Place, said that they really focused on trying to make people feel comfortable and confident to come back into the city when organising the event.

This year, bigger venues are used with a lot of the installations being placed outdoors.

Many of the artworks remain interactive but still ensure social distancing.

Ms Brodie said: “People are ready to do something that’s enjoyable and a nice time and we want it to be as accessible as possible and for all ages of people and families for folk to come in and have a night out and a good time.

“I think that’s important for people from a mental health point of view and for people’s wellbeing.

“I think people are kind of ready and we hope that they’ll come and enjoy and please remember to wrap up warm because it’s chilly.”

Back to human interaction

One of the storytellers, Pauline Cordina, who will be telling stories with Lindsey Gibb at Marischal Square, said she visits the light festival every year.

She said that she really enjoyed seeing all the Aberdeen exhibitions and that she and Ms Gibb had liked weaving elements of them into their stories for Spectra in 2022.

The highlight though, she added, was going to be the face-to-face interaction.

Trumpet Flowers by Amigo & Amigo are installed on Broad Street. The display plays with light, sound and colour.<br />Picture by Paul Glendell/DCT Media

Ms Cornier said: “We’re going to have a live audience and it’s going to be so good because no amount of Zoom sessions will replace having actual real life humans in front of you.

“The stories just bounce right back off them so it’s going to be fantastic and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ms Cordiner and Ms Gibb will be storytelling from 6pm until nearly 10pm for the four days of the festival.

On top of the artworks and sculptures, Spectra’s Catalyst Conference is also set to take place online on February 11. The conference will look at the importance of culture and its role in a post-Covid society.

To find out more information or to book tickets to the conference visit Spectra Festival.

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