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‘Great for the city’: Thousands turn out as Spectra’s 10th anniversary kicks off in style

Spectators marvel at light installations on opening night of festival.

Spectra lights at Union Terrace Gardens.
Union Terrace Gardens was lit up as Spectra got under way tonight. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

Thousands of people gathered in Aberdeen tonight as the light festival Spectra kicked off to help brighten up the Granite City.

Celebrating its 10th year, “Scotland’s Festival of Light” lasts for four days and will end on Sunday.

The free event – which attracted 119,000 visitors last year – aims to brighten up Aberdeen’s winter nights with a showcase of artistic talent and this year, 19 different pieces of artwork and installations will be on display.

Spectra lights at Aberdeen Art Gallery.
It was a “Butterfly Dream” at Aberdeen Art Gallery. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

Seven installations will be on Broad Street (including Marischal College and Marischal Square), five at Union Terrace Gardens (UTG), three will be located in the Art Gallery and one at His Majesty’s Theatre.

There will also be a pop-up workshop at Schoolhill, as well two displays that will roam around the various exhibitions.

At UTG, families and friends gathered to take a glimpse of the impressive “Spin me a Yarn”, which is oversized balls of radiant wool with a long trail of yarn.

Spectra at Marischal College.
Marischal College’s courtyard was a sea of colour for the event. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.
Spectra lights at His Majesty's Theatre.
His Majesty’s Theatre was lit up for Spectra tonight. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

Its aim was to invite audiences to follow its path, and people took full advantage of the invitation.

Marek Stefaniak, who was visiting the exhibition with his wife and child, joked that the former “pushed him” into doing so.

“It’s only once a year and we were at the last one,” he told The P&J.

Marek Stefaniak standing.
Marek Stefaniak was impressed with the display.

They decided to go early this year due to long queues last year, in which they had to wait for over over an hour.

Given his thoughts on this year, he said: “So far it’s looking nice, it’s always something different in Aberdeen and brings people out.”

Ilona Krokhina, who was at the event with her partner and daughter said the event is the “beginning of something in Aberdeen that adds to our routine”.

Ilona Krokhina standing with husband and daughter.
Ilona Krokhina attended with her husband and daughter.

She added: “We liked the previous ones so much we decided to come here today to see something new. We like it so far and it’s really cool, especially to be with other people after the pandemic and to feel something new.

“It’s a really cool place and I’ll be taking some photos and videos to share with other people on social media.”

Despite living in Aberdeen during Spectra‘s entire duration, Andrew Staite said it was “ashamedly” his first year at the event.

‘Spectra is one of the best things that happens in Aberdeen’

Along with his golden retriever Bailey and another dog, their party had six adults visiting the spectacle.

Mr Staite said: “I think Spectra is one of the best things that happens in Aberdeen every year. I’m glad that they’ve extended it for a few days, as it means more people can come through.

Andrew Staite standing with his dog Bailey.
Andrew Staite with his dog Bailey.

“As an event, we need more like this. I think it’s great for the city and it’s just something a bit different.”

It was Melanie Stage’s second time at the festival and she attended with her sister – who was there for the fourth time – and her grandchildren.

Melanie Stage (right) standing with grandchildren and sister (left)
Melanie Stage (right), attended the event with her sister (left) and grandchildren.

“It’s lovely and well needed, I think we need this kind of thing. I’ve not seen so many people for such a long time on Union Street.”

Couple Gemma and Jed Gilchrist were at Marischal Square with their two children and were enjoying “Lightstream” – a soundscape of light and voice – which was located in the courtyard of the historic building.

Gemma Gilchrist.
Gemma Gilchrist was happy to be there in person.

Mrs Gilchrist said the family “just love it” and have been going for “quite a few years”.

She added: “You can see the pictures on Facebook, but once you’re in it, it’s totally different and it is just an amazing event. It’s nice to see people coming out on an evening.”

“Not many other places have something like this.”

Jed Gilchrist.
Jed Gilchrist said his children “loved” the event.

Mr Gilchrist said: “I think it’s something that brings lots of different people together and there’s a really nice atmosphere, not just in the exhibitions but on the streets as well. Everyone’s smiling, having a great time and enjoying themselves.

“The exhibitions are so interactive as well, the children have absolutely loved it.”

Gallery: Thousands turn out to opening night of this year’s Spectra