Northumberland Lights- Ridley Park

PUBLISHED: 14:16 11 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:33 20 February 2013

Guerrilla lights at Seaton Delaval Hall

Guerrilla lights at Seaton Delaval Hall

Bright lights, sweets sounds and fantastic fireworks are just part of Northumberland's magical winter show. Sue Campbell meets the woman who helps put it all together

In a cultural extravaganza costing thousands of pounds across Northumberland, featuring lights, sound, fireworks and music, you might expect something to go wrong. Zoe Bottrell, the co-ordinator behind Northumberland Lights, now in its third year, slowly shakes her head. 'Touch wood, I don't think anything's gone really wrong.' She smiles: 'Unless you count turning up merrily with a van full of lights and equipment for a show at 4.30pm - and finding that the doors wouldn't open. Absolutely jammed shut. 'We ended up having to bring an engineer from Newcastle to the Lime Kilns at Beadnell to get the doors off. It was a close run thing and with 250 people waiting for us to start, it was a bit frantic. But eventually the doors pinged open, and we made it.' One gets the impression it would take more than a couple of recalcitrant doors to deflect Zoe. She is at the centre of a team which created Northumberland Lights in 2006 and this year's programme, starting on November 2, promises to deliver more stunning outdoor experiences, and the illumination of some of Northumberland's most famous landmarks and locations

The events have previously attracted ten of thousands of people. It's reckoned up to 35,000 alone visited Blyth last year to see, among other things, magically lit buildings and a spectacular fireworks display along the river and east pier. Zoe's enthusiasm for her subject is apparent. 'We want people to see something in a different light - which sounds a bit obvious, but that's really what it's all about.' Zoe, whose company Culture Creative is based in Shilbottle, Alnwick, where she lives, works in a core team of herself, artist Phil Supple and White Light project manager, Jack Thompson. But altogether there are probably 40 or 50 artists, venue staff and others working to bring this huge programme together. 'Everything takes place in the dark, of course, and people experience and see buildings and landscapes they may have seen dozens of time before in a completely different way.' Zoe remembers people taking pictures of the illuminated Blyth library. 'They were local people, and had probably seen that rather plain building dozens of time before, but lit up in an unusual and colourful way made it look amazing, like nothing else they'd seen. It's magical.' Zoe laughs. 'Magical - that's a word I use often. But it really does describe the way light and sound can transform a place.We want to encourage people to come out at night and see what their wonderful buildings and landscapes look like in a different light. 'And we have some great, very dark skies up in Northumberland, with little light interference, and on a clear, fine night, it can take your breath away.' Last year the events were at Blyth, Hadrian's Wall, Walltown Quarry, near Haltwhistle, Cragside and Warkworth Castle. This year the programme takes us to Blyth, Kielder and Berwick and will involve great family events with lights, sound, storytelling, fireworks and performance, costing about 250,000 to stage.

Blyth in a New Light is a free day-long event with architectural lighting wizardry in Ridley Park and surrounding streets, plus a spectacular fireworks display on the quayside. Kielder - Out of Water includes a journey through the forest on the newly-developed Lakeside Way, with access to cyclists, walkers and those with less independent mobility.

The State of Berwick is a celebration of Northumberland's most northerly town, encompassing a series of town centre installations in some of Berwick's most intimate spaces. There is also the amazing 'Geurrilla Lighting' in which the team light up the public's nominated and favourite landmarks for one night only - a series of breathtaking shows in often surprising locations across Northumberland.

Zoe says that in this, the third year, the challenge is to come up with something new. It's not a question of getting bigger, it's the quality of the events which is important, rather than size. Zoe is very experienced in the creative field. She has developed and managed a number of site specific indoor and outdoor projects, from the Chelsea Flower Show to a contemporary arts exhibition at Belsay Hall, and from show gardens to sporting events. She has worked in the cultural field for more than 15 years and has been in the North East for more than 11 years. Originally from Cambridgeshire, she was always interested in culture, although when she was young, a promising gymnastic career was cut short by injury. 'I started working for the local authority in Cambridgeshire when I was 15,' she said, 'and went on to work in the public sector cultural field there, and in the North East, for many years before starting Culture Creative. I think people know what I can do and I'm delighted to be involved again in Northumberland Lights.'
From Blyth to the Borders, the festival celebrates the county's contrasting architectural and natural environments with light, pyrotechnics, performance and sound. And Zoe Bottrell will be there to flick the switch on another illuminating show. Northumberland Lights is funded by One NorthEast, Northumberland Strategic Partnership and Arts Council England, North East. Further information from

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