It takes a lot to tempt anyone out into the cold and dark of a winter evening in our corner of Scotland – but in Spectra, Aberdeen’s festival of light, there has been the perfect answer to the urge to hibernate.
Now in its third year, the attraction is going from strength to strength. Thousands flocked to the opening night on Thursday (February 9) and the flow of visitors didn’t stop through to the close of the weekend on Sunday.
Billed as an “exciting family event bringing light to the depth of winter”, promising exhibits that “marry light, sound and interactive experiences” it is something a little bit different from any of the other entries on the Granite City’s growing festival schedule.
Spread over a variety of city centre sites, all closely bunched and within easy walking distance, Spectra brought artists together from across Europe to showcase their creativity and add some sparkle to what has otherwise been a pretty dank and dreary mid-term school break.
We didn’t sample the workshops laid on as part of the programme but did get along to the three main venues – starting with the impressive and hypnotic Double Take Projections show at the already spellbinding Marischal College. Using the adjoining Mitchell Hall as a very stately backdrop, the projection show brought the building to life with a whirlwind tribute to the history and stories of Aberdeen. It takes a lot to get a reaction from an audience in this part of the world, so the fact this show drew warm applause tells its own tale.
Marischal was also the setting for the fun and interactive Laser Light Synths by Seb Lee-Delisle – with the upbeat neon display oozing a very different vibe to the spooky Les Araignees (or The Spiders) by Groupe LAPS. On show amongst the gravestones of the historic St Nicholas Kirk yard, giant stick-figure spiders flickered in the gloom to an atmospheric soundtrack that was enough to bring a shiver down the spine even without the wind whipping in from the North Sea! It was one of our favourites.
Further into the heart of the city, Union Terrace Gardens (a sunken Victorian park so often overlooked by visitors and locals alike) was brought to life with an array of installations. Three caught our eye in particular – and we weren’t alone in that.
Cloud, by Caitlkind Brown and Wyane Garrett, is a mesmerising structure made from lightbulbs with rain droplets (in the form of beaded chains) to pull to switch the lights on and off. Sounds simple, but there’s something strangely captivating about it.
Wave Garden, a new installation by Paul Friedlander, sent spirals of light into the night sky and has been the backdrop to hundreds of Spectra photographs this year – whilst the Doric Smoorach brought plenty of giggles as we took the chance to project our faces onto giant talking heads. Very clever indeed!
It was fantastic to see so many people, young and old, engaged with art on their doorstep thanks to the creative spark of Spectra. A very welcome addition to winter in the frozen north.