Medway Light Nights is a major light festival commissioned by Medway Council that launched its in 2022 in Rochester. The first edition of the event received an outstanding 60,000 visitors from Kent and surrounding areas.
Originally planned for 2020 but delayed due to the pandemic, Medway Light Nights 2022 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. Dicken’s life and early experiences in Medway influenced the works of the artists as well as his literary themes of on class, poverty, civic duty, social reform and mental health. His Medway Contemporaries such as William Cuffay (Black Political Activist) and Anne Pratt (Author/Illustrator) have also played an integral part in diversifying the stories told within Medway.
‘’EEA is fantastic organisation & we’re so keen & supportive to have them work in Medway. They’ll play an important role in the delivery of our cultural strategy, by working alongside our underserved communities to put on spectacular events, such as Medway Light Night, as well as supporting our local based practitoners & organisations to develop work at a larger Kent-wide & national scale.’’ - Head of Culture, Medway council - 2022
Co-created by EEA and Lightfires, one of our exhibits was the ’The Dickensian Fire Laboratory’ a unique performance that transported its visitors back to the Dickensian age, through a variety of audience activated installations whilst harnessing the power of fire and steam.
Medway Light Nights includes 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.
’’If Not Now was 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 - 2022
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.
“We went last year (…) It’s one of the things I really love about the area is the investment that’s going into cultural events like this, it makes it a good place to bring up the children.” - Audience member – 2023
Over the course of two nights, Medway light nights allowed visitors and residents to rediscover Chatham’s public spaces and venues and transformed the town centre into a cultural hub that welcomed over 55,000 people.
For this edition of Medway Light Nights, EEA continued working closely with key local organisations, venues and creatives. This included Chatham library and Central Theatre welcoming the public with a programme of free activities and shows within their spaces. Central Theatre reached capacity both nights with 3,300 visitors coming in to see their light and sound spectacle. Nucleus Arts welcomed over 2,000 visitors to their walk-through experience ‘The Magical Medway’. The creation of this show involved local artists, over 20 students and volunteers, and 110 community group members.
We were excited to collaborate with a higher number of local artists. we received over 40 applications to participate in this years’ show. Medway council worked closely with EEA to decide the shortlisted applicants of 2023.
Our major commission was assigned to Lucid Creates who for two nights transformed the entirety of the 12-storey-high Mountbatten house, into an epic installation visible from all over Chatham and the river Medway. The aim of the piece was to celebrate the ’essence of Chatham’ telling a story of ‘hope, light and joy’.
The commissioned artists that were shortlisted for this year were:
Lucid Creates - Pixels
Circo Rum Ba Ba - Light ship
Impossible Arts - Lightweight
Dream Safari - Thomas Waghorn
Circadian - Heart Beats
Howard Griffin - Electric Chatham
Colour Foundry - Patchwork
Bureau of Silly Ideas - Super Fiction
Nucleus Arts - The Magical Medway
Kerrie O’Leary - 372.5 Medway
Ideas Test, Cohesion Plus, and Intra Arts - We Love Chatham Lantern Parade
Emergency Exit Arts - Dr Kronovator’s Fire Laboratory
Medway Gaming Festival - Gaming Projection Challenge
Central Theatre - Step Inside and See the Light
Chatham Community Hub & Library - In the Night Library
Craig West - Murmur
David Tovey - There’s Always Light Within the Darkness
Mark Barnes - Intra Illuminations
Filaments art Collective – Connectivity
Community Cohesion Plus and Ideas Test organised both our lantern processions which was the openings for both Medway Light Night events.
In year one they worked closely with over 14 schools to create lanterns themed around the idea of home, well-being and love. 500 pupils displayed their artwork alongside 42 musicians and stilt walkers taking to the high street before the big finale.
In year two they collaborated with local artists alongside Intra Arts to deliver workshops in 16 schools across Medway, mostly schools with a closer proximity to Chatham High St. 600 pupils managed to attend this year’s procession inviting siblings, friends and family to celebrate on the high street.
‘’We had an amazing time, thank you for showing us what Medway has to offer. The kids absolutely loved it and it was great to see so many art-based organisations and community’’- Audience member – 2023
Photography by Steve Hartridge and Lucid Creates