Let there be light

Further regeneration at Longbridge.

A new international arts festival throws the spotlight on the £1 billion redevelopment of the 468-acre former car factory site in Longbridge, Birmingham.

The inaugural Longbridge Light Festival, on October 25th, will see 28 internationally renowned artists from cities including Lyon, Leipzig, Rotterdam, Berlin, Paris and Birmingham participating with specially commissioned work and talks to highlight the area’s economic, physical and social rebirth, eight years after the closure of the former Rover production plant.

WERK’s light and art festival concept takes its inspiration from Lyon’s famous Fête des Lumières, Lumiere Durham and the redevelopment of Leipzig’s cotton mill, Spinnerei, a 10-hectare site used today by art galleries, events, studios and restaurants.

Norman Cave, Principal of Bournville College, which commissioned the festival, said: “Due to its geographic location on the fringes of Birmingham, peripherally Longbridge is very dark, which has made it feel very sad at times over the last eight years. The use of light and art is very powerful and symbolic. The festival is a great way to bring people together in this new public space to celebrate, participate and enjoy the free activities and events.”

The festival theme of ‘Back to the Future’ was developed by Birmingham-based artists and festival curators Elizabeth Rowe, and Chris Poolman commissioned by WERK; and collectively they have brought together 28 artists from across the globe – as well as from Birmingham itself – whose unique work will respond to the past, present and future imagining of Longbridge.

Birmingham’s own rich art scene is well represented, with Matthew J Watkins, Ruth Claxton and Juneau Projects all contributing.

Claire Farrell, director of WERK, said: “Each artist has responded with their own unique approach to the theme and area; Cathy Wade’s ‘Found Sculptures of Longbridge’, using light to transform three redundant but significant red tanks that are part of the past, the original Longbridge landscape into illuminated markers, whilst BAZ Birmingham have constructed a tube carriage from a future fictitious Birmingham transport network based on the Austin Allegro’s Quartic Steering Wheel, titled ‘The Quartic Rides Again’.”

Alongside the light and art will be a full programme of hands-on activities produced in partnership with Longbridge community groups, schools and churches, including costume making, constructing lanterns and, on both evenings of the festival, a Light-up Cycle Workshop, where visitors will be invited to customise their two wheels before travelling along an illuminated science fiction cycle route.

The Longbridge Light Festival is preceded by the Tran-si-tion international conference on October 24, hosted by Bournville College, where keynote speakers include artist Daan Roosegaarde from Rotterdam; Jean Francois Zurawik, director of Fête des Lumières, Lyon; Glenn Howells, director of Glenn Howells Architects in Birmingham.

Councillor Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “As the new town centre of Longbridge emerges, Birmingham City Council is delighted to support Longbridge Public Art Project and Festival.

“LPAP is a benchmark regional opportunity to explore how artists can add intrinsic value to regeneration and placemaking, whilst challenging preconceptions of what public art is and can be. I share this public art vision of enhancing the cultural riches, well being and attractiveness of both Longbridge and the Birmingham area.”

www.longbridgelightfestival.co.uk www.lpap.co.uk