Published: Tuesday, 1st February 2022

Hundreds of schoolchildren will help illuminate Medway’s creative spirit next month.

Medway Light Nights, a spectacular festival of light, will transform Rochester’s historic buildings and spaces into works of art on Friday and Saturday, 11 and 12 February 2022.

We, in partnership with Emergency Exit Arts, have commissioned local, national and internationally renowned artists, to work alongside Medway’s young people and communities, to deliver an incredible event which will combine the power of Medway’s heritage with the dynamism of its contemporary people.

A host of local creative organisations including Icon Theatre, 51zero, Ideas Test and Lucid Creates are busy making final preparations for impressive installations and performances which will wow residents and visitors this month.

Cohesion Plus and Ideas Test, have been working with 17 Medway schools and local artists to create lanterns which will be showcased as part of a spectacular lantern parade at Medway Light Nights. The We Are Medway parade will also feature live brass, samba and fusion bands and will begin from the Almon Place car park at 6pm on Friday, 11 February and go along Rochester High Street before finishing in Rochester Castle Gardens. As part of the project a community film installation will play at St Mary’s Meadow in Rochester High Street on both Friday and Saturday, 11 and 12 February.

Another highlight of Medway Light Nights will be Icon Theatre’s If Not Now - a large scale spectacular dance and light show inspired by moments in history that have launched remarkable social change. Renowned for bringing together local communities and professional artists to collaborate as equal partners, Icon bring a mix of exhilarating dance, breath-taking projection, and original new music, If Not Now tells a unifying and uplifting story about how communities can come together to transform poverty, prejudice, and the climate crisis. Inspired by Dickens’ pioneering approach to poverty and the sweeping changes worldwide which have been caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, this stunning and extraordinary show will see breath-taking visuals, created by the internationally renowned Novak, projected onto the walls of Rochester Castle, and will combine the power of Medway’s heritage with the dynamism of its contemporary people. Working with Fat Lady Opera, Square Pegs Arts and Upside Down Dance and four local schools amongst others, If Not Now will be performed by a large scale collective of residents, young people, older adults, dancers and professional performers. All shows will be BSL interpreted.

Another cornerstone of Medway Light Nights is CROSSROADS BY Lucid Creates. After recent installations in Liverpool, Leeds, Aberdeen, Wembley Park and in Chatham, local company Lucid Creates return with CROSSROADS using the optical illusions created by light, sound and mirrors to transport audiences to a place where good things have happened and the future we want exists now. CROSSROADS, which will be on display in the Kings Head car park, is as spectacular by day as it is by night. Its mirrored pillars reflect back its audience and surroundings to create a myriad of responses that are totally individual to each audience and space. 

Residents and visitors will also be transported back in time to the Dickensian age as they wander through a vista of flames and chemical reactions in The Vines. Emergency Exit Arts’ The Dickensian Fire Laboratory will harness the power of fire and steam in a series of audience-activated installations, while various Victorian time travellers present a lesser-known narrative of Dickens. Appropriate for children and adults of all ages, come see this flaming phantasmagoria.

Inspired by Rochester High street’s unique shops and quirky objects for sale such as kaleidoscopes, music boxes, snow globes, weathervanes and cuckoo clocks, 51zero’s Cuckoo Clock Cinema will present projections from the windows of Store 104 where the architecture of the building will frame the show. The programme of films and animations by artists from Medway and around the world will be accompanied by a live performance of dance and music. A cellist and a vibraphonist will accompany the films, experimenting live during the last hour of each night, while the cuckoo improvised ballet performance will dazzle spectators.  

Architectural Visualisation students from School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Kent in Canterbury are creating Illuminarealities, an art installation divided into two parts, one on the Six Poor Travellers' House and one at the front of Rochester Cathedral. Feeding from the stories and messages from Charles Dickens' literature, Illuminarealities aims to combine light and architecture, creating a fusion of the two. Animating architecture with the history, culture and art of Rochester, the students explore this most public of augmented realities in three ways: creating passive, physical and metaphysical interactions.

Local street artist Dream Safari will paint a light mural of Charles Dickens in Eastgate Gardens, where the great author worked on some of his best-known novels. The Charles Dickens’ Flying Circus mural will come to light at night during the festival with fun animations.

Fabric Lenny’s Dancing with Dickens is a live animated character driven projection work starring Dickensian characters, busting moves and throwing shapes to an eclectic playlist of tunes will also take place near Blue Boar Lane. Fabric Lenny creates fun filled pop-up animated images using only a couple of iPads, a mixer and a projector.

Medway Light Nights is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the Welcome Back Fund, Leigh Academy Trust, and the University of Kent.

Display of diverse, innovative creative spirit

Cllr Howard Doe, Deputy Leader of Medway Council and Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “Medway Night Lights is Medway’s next major display of the area’s diverse, innovative and thriving creative spirit. I am pleased that there will be a wide range of public art installations and performances for residents of all ages to enjoy including a spectacular lantern parade. Hundreds of local schoolchildren will be taking part in the parade and this exciting event supports our ambition to become a Child-Friendly City, putting children and young people at the heart of everything we do. Medway Light Nights also supports Medway’s cultural strategy, delivered by Creative Medway, and aim for the area to be internationally recognised for its creativity and culture by 2030. We look forward to welcoming thousands of residents and visitors to Medway Night Lights. This is one of a number of events being held in Medway during Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year.”

Amazing people, artists, schools and communities

Emergency Exit Arts (EEA) have been taking creative experiences to where people live, work and play for 42 years. The CEO of EEA, Daniel Bernstein, said: “We have loved working in Medway on this project over the past two years. It has allowed us to start to really get to know some of the amazing people, artists, schools and communities living here. EEA believe there is an even greater opportunity post-covid for communities to come together in new playful ways. Helping build longer term bonds and networks. By helping to pull some of the local creative strands and ambition together EEA truly believe that Medway can become an even better place to live, work and play. Producing Medway Light Nights in partnership with Medway Council has been a wonderful opportunity and experience. We’re also honoured that some of our own work appears at this event. We hope to continue working and playing in Medway for many years to come.”

Real sense of community

Founder and Artistic Director of Icon Theatre, Nancy Hirst, said: “I’m excited and humbled by the way in which our company made up of over 175 professional theatre-makers and performers, local individuals and community groups have come together to create If Not Now; a production that I hope gives voice to the stories and interests of those involved, and a stage to both local and national talents alongside each other. Our eldest performer in If Not Now is 88 years old and our youngest is seven. Everyone involved both on and offstage has brought something special to this show – there’s a real sense of community.”

Find out more about Medway Light Nights.

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