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Medway Light Nights


On the 11th and 12th of February 2022, Emergency Exit Arts, in partnership with Medway Council, produced a large-scale light event which transformed Rochester’s historic buildings and spaces into works of art.

Originally planned for 2020 but delayed due to the pandemic, Medway Light Nights focused on the 150th Anniversary of Charles Dickens and showcased a programme of light commissions including artworks specially created for the event and involving local artists and creatives as well as the community.

The event was an incredible success, seeing over 60,000 people fill the streets and come together to explore the variety of performances, projections, and art installations that lit up their city. As a result of the big turn-out, the local businesses thrived and experienced an influx of people. Medway Light Nights engaged the local community, ignited creativity and curiosity, and supported local businesses - much needed after the past two years.

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EEA’s work at Medway Light Nights included

Peace Poems

This 14ft high illuminated Peace Poem was created to commemorate the 100 years since the first day of peace after WWI. The large-scale mobile artwork, created by leading artist and poet Robert Montgomery, has been seen by thousands of people as it travelled along motorways to cities across the UK.

Recovery Poems

Through talking and listening to communities, artists Robert Montgomery and Deanna Rodger created an inspiring light poem that visits public spaces as a backdrop for workshops, performances and reflections.

The Hourglass

The Hourglass is an impressive 4-metre-high sculptural piece, with internal projection mapping, created in collaboration with projection wizards Illuminos with script and narration by Arjunan Manuelpillai.

The Dickensian Fire Laboratory

Co-created by EEA and Lightfires The Dickensian Fire Laboratory transported visitors back in time to the Dickensian age as they wandered through a vista of flames and chemical reactions within The Vines, Rochester. Co-created by EEA and Lightfires, The Dickensian Fire Laboratory harnessed the power of fire and steam in a series of audience activated installations, while various Victorian time travelers presented a lesser-known narrative of Dickens. Performance Direction by Joey Timmins.

Medway Light Nights included a programme of artistic commissions which prioritised local artists responding to the theme of the event, to adapt or create brand new light work. Each edition also saw a major commission going to a renowned arts organisation to devise a brand new, big-scale light show. The major artistic commission in 2022 was “If Not Now” an impressive participatory performance piece devised by ICON theatre and involving 185 community performers on stage and welcomed 20,000 audience across the 2 days of the festival. The piece told a profound story about unifying communities in times of “poverty, prejudice and the climate crisis” and included a massive projection backdrop created by Novak Collective. 

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Lantern Procession

EEA worked with 3 schools within the Leigh Academy Trust for the lantern parade curated by Cohesion Plus and Ideas Test. Students from Y5 designed and helped create lanterns for the parade held on Friday 11th. The lanterns, themed around ‘Home, Belonging, Love and Respect’, represented the historic buildings of Rochester and became an installation on Saturday 12th, creating a micro-city in the gardens by the cathedral.

Our 2022 event was all made possible with the help of a host of creative organizations Including: 

- The Dickensian Fire Lab - Emergency Exit Arts and Lightfires 
- Cuckoo Clock Cinema - 51zero 
- We are Medway - (Parade Lanterns) - Cohesion Plus, Ideas Test, leigh Academy Trust 
- Illuminarealities - Kent University Architecture Students 
- Crossroads - Lucid Creates 
- If Not Now - Icon Theatre 
- The Hourglass - Emergency Exit Arts 
- Peace and Recovery Poems - Emergency Exit Arts 
- Dancing with Dickens - Fabric Lenny 
- Charles Dickens’ flying Circus - Dream Safari 
- A Tale of Two Cities - Mona Whitton 

Medway Council and local volunteers did a spectacular job collecting feedback which was positive overall. Based on the results the feedback showed that 90% were satisfied/very satisfied with the event. 96% thought the atmosphere was good/very good. Over 91% agreed/strongly agreed that the event created a sense of community spirit. 87% agreed/strongly agreed that the event enhanced the reputation of Medway. 94% agreed that event was well organised/very well organised. Lastly 93% would recommend this event to a friend. 

With an overwhelming sea of positive feedback and a high satisfaction rate with visitors, EEA were awarded the tender to produce Medway Light Nights 2023 for the second year, this time to the historic town of Chatham.

Craig West’s lighting designs lit up the streets and brought colour to the trees, historic walls, and buildings of Rochester, bringing the event together as a coherent whole.

“An extraordinary event for the communities of Medway to both see and take part in. It was beautifully produced and of high quality. More of this is needed in the region bringing together audiences of all ages, backgrounds and interests to celebrate our cultural heritage.””

Audience Member

Medway Light Nights was produced by Emergency Exit Arts in partnership with Medway Council. This event has been sponsored by Arts Council England, The Welcome Back Fund, Leigh Academy Trust, and Kent University.

Photography by Steve Hartridge

Check out this article for more insights on Medway Light Nights: Medway Light Nights held in Rochester town centre was a huge success (

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