The 30th of November 2013 will be London’s first Light Night, an event based on the European model of Nuit Blanche founded in Paris in 2002. The Light or White Night festivals usually turn cities into open art galleries and shows, offering free entrance to museums and other institutions as well as in situ performances and installations. The event produced by The Brick Box and supported by IALD (International Association of Lighting Designers) will celebrate some of the most creative minds in the use of light and space in the heart of Canning Town, London Borough of Newham.
The area of Canning Town and its community, which will both benefit from the positive impact of such initiative, will welcome the event with real local engagement and participation. The activities will take place in different locations in the area such as the underpass of the A13 opposite the underground station, the Bow Creek Ecology Park, the House of Fairy Tales, Ashsakula’s Caravanserai and Core Arts’ Growing Space. Free Light Night activities will begin at 6pm and go until late. They will include installations, music, games, workshops, food stalls and bars.
Several artists will be involved in the project which will light up Canning Town this weekend. Certainly an attractive name is the one of Leni Schwendinger, a New-York based urbanist and lighting artist with more than 20 years of experience in lighting design and public art who will be leading the NightSeeing LightWalk and a talk titled “Nightseeing, Navigate your Luminous City” (already given in New York City, Berlin and Buenos Aires). Besides Leni’s, Canning Town will be the site for the work of Output Arts (with “Sand” at the A13 underpass from 6pm to midnight), a group which produces site-specific installation offering an interactive art experience for the public.
The line-up also includes DJ set from Gavin Turk which will take place at the House of Fairy Tales, a live show by Bishi, an Indian artist, musician and performer, who will perform at National Traveling Art Circus and charity for children and an interactive multimedia installation by designers from the lighting company Speirs+Major who will use the underpass of the A13 for their work.
The Canning Town event will be the first Light Night for London and combines the art projects with participation and involvement of the community and the public, to promote and construct a positive image of this east London area attracting people from everywhere in the city. In fact the Brick Box’s activities (an arts organization and Community Interest Company), usually focus on taking over under-used spaces and urban areas to transform their social environment. The company’s artistic projects are socially engaged and promote the reciprocal interaction between communities and space.
For instance, the underpass of the A13 will be one of the protagonist spaces of the event and it will combine local efforts with the transformative power of installation art and public interaction to re-invent an otherwise non-place. Used for the interactive installation as mentioned above and also for music performances such as one by Newham Sixth Form College (a mix of young local DJs, VJs and MCing) and another one by Royal Docks Singstars (a choir formed of parents and children from North Woolwich and Silvertown), it is an example of the flexibility of the use of forgotten spaces.
Previous initiatives in Canning Town, such as the last summer “A13 Green” which re-imagined the space underneath the A13 flyover or the ongoing project run by AshSakula “Caravanserai”, aimed at involving the local community in self-organized events and commercial space, had a good impact on the identity of Canning Town area and its residents. Nevertheless, the Light Night both entering the international network of urban “white nights” and through the powerful aids of interactive activities and public art, will stand out as a more powerful tool to improve the image of the area, strengthen the community identity and its participation in the city.
How can events like Light Night become an example to initiate a wider discourse around art, community and urban space in several places in the London area?