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Illuminate Festival, Derry

Illuminate Festival Derry

We have now moved to our permanent home in Derry. We will return to Donegal when it is warmer.

The winter weather wasn’t the problem as such, as I enjoyed the storms and changeable skies. It was living in a draughty cottage without central heating, just storage heaters and a wood burning stove.  We were living on biscuits to keep us warm! The cats and dog just LOVE the radiators in our house in Derry. So do we.

We also love exploring the Historical City of Derry.

The ‘Illuminate’ festival is running over two weekends in Derry, 17th – 20th and 24th – 27th February, from 6pm – 9pm. We visited it on Thursday night. It was very cold (double socks and thermals weather) but mostly dry. This was important was all the sites we visited were out of doors.

We followed a “magical illuminated trail” which told the story of the city. At each of the locations were live projection shows, cast upon the wall and facades of the ancient buildings. They were accompanied by soundtracks, music, singing and narration. They were very affecting at times.  It might have helped if we had taken the map below with us because we started at the Guildhall, which I think is towards the end of the series of six sites. It didn’t matter too much, as we looped around and visited it a second time. We also missed a couple of sites and will have to go back to see them.

Map of Live Projection Shows
Map of Live Projection Shows


The route along the 400-year old city walls is about 1.5km long but can be walked at a leisurely pace, and there is plenty of time between each light show.  These were a mix of audio-visual, digital media and outdoor projections. On Thursday night there were lots of families with small children  with prams (although many toddlers ended up  riding piggy-back style on dads’ shoulders)  and dogs on leads.

Illuminate Derry 2022
Illuminate Derry 2022 – outside the walls, the monastic legend Colmcille and his followers


Illuminate Derry 2022 - on the walls of the city
Illuminate Derry 2022 – on top of the wall looking out towards St Eugune’s Cathedral


Illuminate Derry 2022
Illuminate Derry 2022 – St Columb’s Cathedral


Here’s a flavour of one of the Projection shows – in two parts.  Seamas filmed it and wouldlike me to explain the wobbly camera work at the beginning is because Biddy our dog was pulling on the lead. The barking along to Amazing Grace in the second clip, also thanks to Biddy! I had to take her on a quick walk at this point.

Illuminate Derry 2022
Illuminate Derry 2022 – History of the Civil Rights movement and the pathway to peace


Illuminate Derry 2022
Illuminate Derry 2022 – The Guildhall


Illuminate stilted people
Illuminated stilted people

There are also a numbers of intimiate music gigs (read more here) and street performers. I never thought I would have been so pleased to see fire jugglers as on a cold February night in Derry!

All in all, it was a brillant introduction to Derry, its History, people and its creativity. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and even better, its running next weekend too so we can do it all over again. Oh, and I forgot to mention. The Live Projection shows and The Sound and Light Trail are free too.

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17 thoughts on “Illuminate Festival, Derry

    1. Thank you, we really enjoyed it too.

  1. This is amazing. Emma the photos are so good. You should tag this post for the “low light” from last week’s Lens artists challenge. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    1. Thank you, Leueen. The photos are thanks to my beloved Nikon Coolpix A. No zoom but great shots!

  2. Very nice night shots!

  3. Aren’t light shows like this wonderful? And to be out and about with other people, even if it was very cold.

    1. I don’t mind the cold – we were prepared- its a great idea to take advantage of the dark nights at a time of year when there’s not a lot to look forward to. Yes, it was fun to out with all the families with their dogs too.

  4. This look wonderful…thank you for posting this and enjoy your lovely warm home:)

    1. Thank you, Derry. Yes the central heating is a marvel.

  5. Every time I get a chance to visit an outdoor venue with light effects and/or projection I come away marveling at what is possible in the modern world of illustrating with light.

    1. I think I enjoyed the sound tracks as much as anything – the combination of the narration, music and songs was quite spell binding at times. All things we see in our daily lives but made special by being transported outside. I also really enjoyed the fact that the projections were all about the location we were at.

  6. How amazing this is! What fun!

  7. Great tour. Our Enlighten Festival just began with many public buildings lit at night with interesting and colourful artworks.

    1. Thank you, Peggy. I have never seen it done before. I was really impressed. I really liked the way the past was tied into the present through location.

  8. Very cheerful 🙂 I like it

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