It’s time to be dazzled as the annual light shows transform York’s buildings and spaces into moving, musical works of art. Here’s our illuminating guide
What’s it all about?
Illuminating York is a festival which brightens up the dark autumn evenings. Launched in 2005, this year it runs from Wednesday, October 29 to Saturday, November 1.
Eye Of York and across the city
Oct 29-Nov 1 from 6pm-10pm
Hidden Worlds: adults £4, under 16 £3, under 5 free
Harnessing the latest technologies, artists use light and music to bring buildings to life, tell stories and celebrate York’s astonishing history.
This year there are 12 new illuminating artworks, plus a programme of supporting events in various attractions across the city. More than 50,000 visitors are expected to attend.
The big events are ticketed and paid for, with other attractions free.
The main event
Hidden Worlds will see a new animation projected on to the York Crown Court building at The Eye Of York.
The 3D spectacular is inspired by the story of John Snow, the York Victorian physician who not only discovered how cholera spread but went on to pioneer the use of anaesthetics.
Hidden Worlds is created by Seeper Arts, a London-based collective of people who craft technology into many things, including art, advertising, education and live events.
Entrance to Hidden Worlds is ticket only. They cost £4 for adults, £3 for children, with under-fives going free
Book in advance from York Theatre Royal
Limited tickets are on sale each evening from the Theatre Royal box office or at the Eye Of York (cash only)
Coppergate Shopping Centre
Codex by Impossible Arts sees a giant illuminated book light up the night sky, revealing the stories of York’s own leading lights as they pages turn.
Audiences can ask the interactive installation a question using the hashtag #CodexYork.
The Wheels Of Industry by Twist Design pays homage to traditional industrial processes of the past.
Stained glass windows depict coal mines, railways and steelworks. Each window panel is illuminated by using an electricity-generating bicycle, which suggests a future less reliant on fossil fuels.
Then Chocolate It Shall Be by ViaPerformance. There is a strange mist in the air and it smells like… cocoa. It’s coming from the gardens of the manor house.
As you come nearer you hear the sound of drums and somewhere a live band is playing… York contemporary theatre company ViaPerformance is back with a visual feast of revelry.
St Helen’s Church
Time And Space by Haydn Robinson is a projection mapping piece which will blast audiences into space on a satellite, travelling way above York and taking pictures to of planets and galaxies far, far away.
It will highlighting some of York’s famous astronomers. Haydn Robinson’s previous clients include TopGear and John Lewis.
Duncombe Place trail
You’ll find Joanna Geldard with her Greenhouse and Ritchard Allaway and Luc Jones’s concrete and light in Memorial Gardens, Duncombe Place.
Four Shadows Theatre presents Remember Remember, inspired by the story of Guy Fawkes, at Treasurer’s House.
At Clifford’s Tower you’ll find graffiti artist Miss Hazard. Formerly from York and now based in Bristol, she will “bring an urban twist of illuminated street art” to the festival.
Wunderbar sees two crash-landed astronauts wandering the length of Parliament Street, trying to re-map the city in photographs.
City Chimes is an installation by Andrew Potterton. Based on wind chimes, the artwork is at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate.
The Fringe Festival
The Lights Of North Street
All Saints Church, North Street
Saturday, November 1 @ 5.30pm and 7pm
Free, no booking required
On All Saints Day, here’s a chance to see this wonderful medieval church – and the place where John Snow (see above) was baptised – in a new light.
Check out the excavations by York Archaeological Trust, followed by Illuminated Latin Vespers, sung in Gregorian plainsong, with a multimedia light display.
The Bloody Tour of York
Meet at Constantine’s statue near York Minster
Wed 29 Oct – Sat 1 Nov @ 6pm and 8pm
Adults £5, children £3
Join Mad Alice on this special candlelit tour of York’s historic landmarks. Discover the gruesome history of the plague, heads on spikes, invasions and hanged men spanning nearly 2000 years.
Learn the grisly truth of some of York’s infamous characters and their impact on history. This fun and entertaining 90 minute tour may have a few heads rolling…
Fairfax House After Dark
Fairfax House, Castlegate
Wed 29, Thu 30 Oct and Sat 1 Nov: 7.30pm
Adults £14, child £7
Fairfax House is opening its doors after dark
for a highly unusual and illuminating candlelit performance by the mansion’s “original Georgian inhabitants”. Electric lighting will be strictly taboo!
You will be taken through the House by Lord Fairfax, his daughter Anne and members of staff and given an unvarnished insight into 18th-century life.
National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate
Thu 30 Oct @ 7.30pm
Adults £13, conc £11, students £5
The NCEM is delighted to welcome Bradford-based Kala Sangam for an evening of South Asian music and dance reflecting Diwali – the Hindu Festival of Lights.
Story teller/ dancer Shrikant Subramaniam is joined by dancer Nrithya Rammohan and multi-talented musician Vijay Venkat in a striking performance unveiling the story of the divine presence of sunlight in the life of a common man, capturing the importance of the Sun as a female energy and her deification as a divine cosmic being.
Locos in a Different Light
National Railway Museum
Wed 29 Oct – Sat 1 Nov @ 6.30pm – 10pm
As part of the Trainspotting season, see a selection of fascinating ‘spotter stories’ brought to life in the Great Hall with amazing colour and lighting.
A unique chance to see the locomotives linked to these tales from the tracks as you’ve never seen them before, as part of the sixth annual lighting competition which this year is bigger and better than ever.
A wide range of refreshments will be available in the Mallard Cafe? and the museum shop will also be open.
All Souls creative worship
Meet at St Martin, Coney Street before moving on to St Helen’s, Stonegate
Sunda, November 2 @ 4pm
An act of creative worship in conjunction with the Visions Group, using sound and light to help worshippers remember loved ones who have died.
At 4pm, make candle holders in the Upper Room at St Martin, Coney Street, which will be dedicated in St Martin’s Church and then carried in procession from St Martin to St Helen, Stonegate, where there will be closing prayers of blessing and a placing of them around the darkened church.
Treasurer’s House, Minster Yard
Wed 29 Oct – Sat 1 Nov @ 6.30pm – 8.30pm
Adults £5, children £2.50, YorkCard holders free
Treasurer’s House and garden will be open during the evening, using light, sound and effects to transform the house at night, telling the story of one of York’s leading historic characters.
Celebrating John Goodricke’s stellar discoveries made here, the venue will be decorated with plasma domes, constellations and lights.
Enjoy hot food in the Below Stairs Café from 5pm.
Chocolate tasting in the dark
York’s Chocolate Story, King’s Square
Thurs Oct 30 @ 7pm
From the toasted, dark, earthy flavours of cocoa to notes of citrus, herbal and even floral – there are a whole host of flavours contained within one piece of chocolate.
Our sight significantly affects the way we taste food as our brain attempts to perceive flavours before food reaches our taste buds. Expert guides and chocolatiers at York’s Chocolate Story will be on hand to talk guests through the process of tasting like a professional and experiencing flavours without the help of their vision.
Guy Fawkes Trail
Meet at York Museum Gardens gates, Museum Street
Fri 31 Oct @ 7.30pm
York residents (with York Card) £5, non-residents £6
Yorkwalk talk you on this tour exploring the (several!) birthplaces and haunts of one of York’s most infamous sons – Guy Fawkes, of Gunpowder Plot fame.
See Illuminated York from a different angle as the tour guide takes you round parts of the city associated with Guy Fawkes.
No booking required.
Jorvik Viking Centre, Coppergate
Wed 29 Oct – Sat 1 Nov @ 6pm – 9pm (last admissions at 8pm)
Adult £9.95, child £6.95, concession £7.95
Join the Vikings of the Jorvik Centre as they share stories and sagas of Viking invention and exploration that helped shape many of today’s everyday household items.
Traverse your way around the Viking-age city before getting up close to some interesting Viking inventions in the ‘Discover Coppergate’ gallery, featuring handling collections of items over 1,000 years old.
Check out the ‘Coppergate Alive’ app boards located outside JORVIK in Coppergate Square.
DIG, St Saviourgate
Wed 29 Oct – Sat 1 Nov @ 6pm – 9pm
Adult £2, child/concession £1
The team at DIG – An Archaeological Adventure are getting ready to join in on the action at Illuminating York 2014 with their Steampunk inspired salute to Victorian engineering.
Visitors will be treated to an immersive, hands on experience where DIG’s ‘inventors’ will be on hand to help you explore some of the key Victorian innovations that still impact modern life today, including cars, cameras and trains. They will be helped out with unique projections utilising animation and newsreel footage, creating a ‘steampunk’ feel.
Horrid Medieval Medicine
Barley Hall, 2 Coffee Yard, off Stonegate
Wed 29 Oct – Sat 1 Nov @ 7pm – 9pm
Adult £2, child/ concession £1
Uncover the more gruesome side of medieval and early Tudor medicine in the candlelit surroundings of historic Barley Hall.
Visitors will join the Barber Surgeon and Plague Doctor as they test out new and dangerous treatments, all available in the medieval period on their ‘patients’.
You can smell and touch the spices and herbs medieval medical practitioners would have used to try and cure various ailments.
A New Light on Medieval Warfare
Richard III Experience, Monk Bar
Wed 29 Oct – Sat 1 Nov @ 6pm – 9pm
Adult £2, child/ concession £1
The Richard III Experience, housed in Monk Bar, will be bathed in soft candlelight where guests will be transported back to the guardroom of late 15th century York and met by a soldier, in period dress.
The constant state of war throughout the realm led to many innovations in weapons and battle tactics, which will be explored during the evening.
A Leading Light of the City
York Mansion House, St Helen’s Square
Thu 30 Oct – Sat 1 Nov @ 5.30pm – 8.30pm
Adult £2.50, child free
Another chance to visit the Mansion House by night.
See the historic home of a true ‘leading light’ of the city, the Lord Mayor of York, illuminated by glowing candlelight as in centuries past.
Guildhall in the Dark
The Guildhall, St Helen’s Square
Fri 31 Oct @ 5.30pm – 8.30pm
Adult £2.50, child free
For one night only, experience the atmosphere of this magnificent medieval hall, right in the heart of the city, lit only by candlelight.
You may even encounter a ghost…
(Ghost not guaranteed.)
According to McGee Gallery, Tower Street
Fri 31 Oct – Sat 1 Nov
Light installation artist Nick Walters returns to the According to McGee gallery to project phrases and text from Seebohm Rowntree’s influential 1901 book, .
Through a semi-transparent patchwork row of terraced houses, the words will filter through colours and images chosen by and inspired by participants in York charity New Visuality’s projects Out the Box and The Wheel Turns.
Friends of York Walls
From Bootham to Monk Bar
29th & 30th October – 6pm – 9pm (last entry 8.45pm)
You can walk the Walls at night – one-way, from Bootham Bar to Monk Bar – as part of the festival.
This event is organised by the Friends Of York Walls and will give you the opportunity to see night time views of floodlit York Minster from the walls, which are not normally possible. Guides will be on hand with book sales at Bootham Bar.
The walls are open subject to weather and safety conditions.
Illuminate Your Bike
The Minster Tree
Thursday Oct 30 @ 6.30pm
York Bike Belles will be lighting up the city by lighting up their bikes.
The ride will be a great way to experience the various events happening around York while being a part of the glowing surroundings.
So get out your Christmas lights early, decorate your bike, or even yourself, and join the Belles while they cycle around the city.
Salt and Powell, 11, Little Stonegate
Oct 30-31 @5pm-10pm, Nov 1 @ 6pm
SLAP are hosting a creative lab for 8 artists to create, work and sleep in a space for 48 hours to experiment collaboratively and create new work.
SLAPover will be held on the 30th and 31st October with a public sharing on the 1st November to coincide with the Illuminating York Festival. Working with the festivals theme of discovery the team are allowing eight artists to discover and learn new ways of working with each other.
The time spent in the space will be live streamed allowing the public to interact with the process. The artists process will be projected in the window of 11 Little Stonegate from 5pm -10pm on the 30th and 31st October.