Vic Reeves plans a surreal park for a dream night out

With the comedian in charge for the first time, this year’s Illuminating York is going to be a little different. Paisley Gilmour reports.

Illuminating York, the now annual festival that shows the already beautiful ancient city in a magical light, is back.

Not only do organisers claim that the event is 
bigger than ever before, there is also a guarantee it will be more surreal than ever 
before – mainly because Vic Reeves has been given free rein in programming the event this year.

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The surreal comedian, aka Leeds-born Jim Moir, has been given licence to take over the festival and next week will see his oddball creations brought to life.

He’s not entirely going it alone. Reeves is joined by a crack team, including Dan Lister and Simon Baker from Chetwoods Architects and Chris Walker, creator of the breathtaking Vespertine for the festival in 2009.

The centrepoint of the event will be the illuminated wonderland which will take over York’s Museum Gardens. Billed as a mysterious, chaotic and bizarre world of light, large-scale projections and dazzling new technology, Reeves has apaprently been inspired by a topsy-turvy, world reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Blackpool Council has allowed the creative team to borrow from its store of lighting technology this 
year and it will allow lighting features to be draped 
around trees and poke 
out of plants to illuminate visitors’ way through the 10 acre site.

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It will be hard to beat last year’s event, which saw a Guy Fawkes’ inspired projection on the Castle Museum. However, with miles of lighting, thousands of LEDs and banks of projectors, this year’s festival is expected to outshine last year’s.

The man responsible for realising Vic Reeves’s vision for the park, Dan Lister, has worked on a variety of cutting-edge projects and designed the lighting for all the bridges in the Olympic Park.

He said: “It is quite 
often about what you don’t light, rather than what you do.”

Chris Walker, who 
created Vespertine for the festival in 2009, is this year 
creating the three large 
scale projections that 
will form part of the main event.

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He said: “The inspiration behind this year is about 
the whole idea of what 
is termed today as Wonderland, using 
the phrase that Lewis 
Carroll coined to create a place, an alternative 
reality. “If you could change the world how would you 
do it? We want to recreate the feeling that children would have got from reading Alice’s adventures all those years ago, but we are doing it in a 21st- century world.”

As well as the main event in the Museum Gardens, 
various venues across the city are also taking part in the digital arts festival, which runs from October 31 to November 3.

For Museum Gardens tickets call 01904 623568,

Wonderland in a medieval city

Wonderland will be open from 6.30pm to 10.30pm each evening in York Museum Gardens.

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Illuminating York Minster and The Opening of the Orb allow you to become part of Andy McKeown’s new Kaleidosopia, or light one of the 800 Candles for the Departed. Open each evening from 6.30pm.

A Ghostly Glow at Treasurer’s House is open each evening from 6.30pm.

University of York’s Javanese Gamelan, an orchestra of gongs and metalophones, will be performing at St Mary’s on November 2 from 6pm.

Gabrieli a 2(2): A Musical Soundscape will be performed on October 31 from 7pm.