Illuminating Oxford. 16th November

Jericho Wharf

Living on a boat means that I couldn’t put off unpacking the four bags I’d returned from Chippy with for long. Any spare space on the boat had been taken up by them last night, so after a slow start to the day I started to unpack. Returning things to where they’d come from meant taking out the back steps and dismantling the dinette to return my sewing machine, steel toe cap boots and paint brush bag back to the depths they normally live in. Mick had managed to empty the washing drawer earlier in the week, but I filled in again! My dungarees, that had been gradually getting duller have now had a brightening up with primary colours, hope it clings on in the washing machine.

An afternoon of watching Lego Masters and knitting was followed with a walk into the city. My landlady in Chippy had mentioned that she would be singing this evening at the Ashmolean Museum, this was to be a small part of a light festival. Looking it up I discovered that the light festival was right across the city, lantern parades, street markets, food markets, installations and performances. A quick look through the website and we decided to head to Broad Street where there would be a market and several other things going on as it got dark.

Broad Street

Broad Street was cut off to traffic and filled with a market, both foody things and craft bits and bobs. Chippy panto seems to have set a trend with various camel themed items for sale throughout the market.

Rising highBright whiteColour changingWhat we’d actually come here for was to watch the Heliosphere. Up ahead a large white balloon sat tethered to a heavy truck. A lady climbed inside a harness and strapped herself in. The lights were turned on in the balloon as it was unclipped and allowed to rise from the ground taking with it the lady. In a spangley catsuit, similar to that of Queenie the Genie (Chippy Panto) the lady rose up above the crowds suspended below the balloon. Two chaps also with harnesses had guide ropes, as they moved close to each other the balloon went higher, further apart the lower it came above the crowd. The lady span round, twisting and turning in her harness floating along the street, pausing to touch hands with the crowd before rising high up between the University buildings all the time a follow spot doing it’s job (making it hard to get good photos of her) and the balloon changing colour.

Shimmer Tree

Further along is the Shimmer Tree by Dan Fox. A 6m high sculpture with twelve branches which suspend a cymbal on each. Lights shine up to the cymbals and sounds are created. The cymbals act as directional speakers and resonate as the lights chase round. From a distance this didn’t seem like much, but stood below it was quite mesmerising.

Wonder if this will still be here tomorrow or a new one on its way

We decided to hunt out the other installations around the city. Down by the Castle people took turns to sit in an ice throne lit from below.

A food market, only a few stalls, is hoping to grow in time and become a regular thing. Round the corner, after following oddly positioned signs we got to the Voice Park.

Voice ParkOdd bodsSpeaker or egg waiting to hatchLast Sunday I’d come across people who looked like they were poor imitators of the Ghost Busters. Apparatus on their backs with empty water containers, surely to collect any stray ghosts. But no, they were collecting voices from people. Here pods not unsimilar to growing Chrysalids are joined by pipes and cables. Speakers with lights embeded inside their red pods. If you make a suitable noise next to them they respond by playing human sounds back. I got one to work by saying hello, but Mick struggled as his voice was too low for it to react. One for the kids.

Modern Diseases

We then set out to find projections on museums. These were further afield, north out of the centre. The Radcliffe Humanities Building had a large projection to do with Diseases of modern life. This was amusing in it’s animation of Victorian illustrations.

Natural History Museum

Weaving our way further east we reached the Natural History Museum where vast projections created by Luxmuralis covered the front of the building. There are to be more of these over the weekend, moving around the city and projecting onto other buildings. Torchlit tours of museums were also being held, but we were a touch pooped by now so we’ll return in day light. So we wove our way through the streets back in the direction of the canal for a quiet evening in front of the stove with some nice food.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 poached eggs, 2 slices toast, mushrooms, 4 bags unpacked, 1 homeless bag, 0.5 glove knitted, 1 large balloon, 12 cymbals, 5 uninspired cubes, 2 SILENT signs, 1 noisy man, 3 illuminated buildings, 4 soggy bums, 1 bench a touch too close to the boat, 1 tree, 1 cat, 1 squirrel, 1 ft away, 1 unfair advantage.

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