Lumiere London – the city in a new light

Although one of us is currently incapacitated, having [very annoyingly] broken his foot slipping in a tube station (don’t worry, our love for public transport hasn’t abated too much), we wanted to see what we could catch of the first Lumiere festival to come to London, as I remember them being such a success up in Durham a few years ago. We headed out for the evening, but our first stop was the Benjamin Franklin House near Trafalgar Square, the only house still standing that Franklin lived in. He came to London intending to lodge here for a few short months but stayed for 16 years, even remaining while his wife died at home. The house remains in a fairly faithful state, although it was since used by Charing Cross station as a small hotel, but it has no original furniture. Rather than fill the house with replicas, the team have decided to approach this in an unconventional way, using image projection, recorded speech and an actress to take us through the story. Ultimately, we thought this was very successful (although rarely have I read more divisive opinions on Trip Advisor!). The actress herself was completely engaged and spoke clearly – had she been anything less than perfect the tour would have suffered (on which note, she did rather need a new costume…). The tour was informative, and we learned a great deal about the man himself and his rich and varied life. In the face of presumably limited resource, we thought this was an ingenious way to bring the house to life.

Benjamin Franklin House

We then wandered up to Trafalgar Square itself, to see the Lumiere installations everyone has heard so much about. On which note, first of all, out heartfelt congratulations to the Lumiere PR and marketing team – with so much going on in London, this was the thing everyone was talking about. Unfortunately, though, this did mean that a) we couldn’t see anything, really and b) so popular were some of the installations that they had to be turned off to deal with the crowds. Our first stop was the National Gallery, which itself was looking beautiful as always…

National Portrait Gallery

…but very crowded. To the right of this photo I believe there were some pretty lights in the fountain, but this was as close as we could get. Partly because of the broken foot, but also because there were so. many. people.


Unable to face Oxford/Regent Streets, we headed over by bus to Westminster Abbey, which was less crowded and promised a stunning illumination on the West front. Matched perfectly with the intricate carving, the lights turned the building almost ‘hyper real’ in definition, constantly fading from one bright colour to another around the central panel.

Lumiere at Westminster Abbey

Lumiere at Westminster Abbey

We didn’t even notice the illuminated halos until we moved closer.

Lumiere at Westminster Abbey

Have you managed to spot some of Lumiere London? What did you think? Our favourite thing was seeing so many people out in the streets looking for culture on a cold Saturday night!

P.S. You’ll get half price entry to the Benjamin Franklin house with your National Trust membership… [you’ve bought one by now, right?]

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