Image of children holding handmade decorative stars at Medway Light Nights parade. Published: Tuesday, 17th January 2023

A parade launching Medway Light Nights in Chatham will close with a dramatic display of music and the unveiling of a 12-storey-high light installation.

Medway’s naval city centre will come to live with 19 vibrant displays filling the high street on Friday, 10 and Saturday, 11 February as part of Medway Light Nights, organised by us in partnership with Emergency Exit Arts.

The whole weekend will have a party atmosphere, and visitors will also be able to enjoy a street market with food stalls along the old High Street, an area quickly becoming known for its entertainment venues and creative businesses.

The two-day celebration of light will be launched by a parade with 600 children from schools across Medway. The parade, which takes place on Friday, 10 February, starting at 6pm outside Cafe Nucleus, will travel along the high street passing unique artistic pieces and gather outside Mountbatten House for a spectacular opening ceremony.

The schoolchildren will help transform Chatham town centre, unveiling creative artwork they designed and made with support from Intra Arts, which runs a community arts venue in Rochester. The artwork will showcase what Medway’s young people love about Chatham, including boats due to the area’s connection to the River Medway and birds due to the local wildlife. The parade, organised by Cohesion Plus and Ideas Test - two local organisations which work closely with communities to provide cultural opportunities, will also feature culturally diverse musicians, stilt walkers and street entertainers.

Love art

Luton Primary School’s Headteacher Karen Major said: “Luton Primary are really excited to be taking part in this parade. We love art at Luton Primary and this will give us a chance to show off what we have done and to see everyone else's lovely lantern designs.”

Leading the walking celebration will be one of the commissions - Light Ship by Circo Rum Baba. The ship will be pulled by local sea cadets and waves will be created from shining lanterns worn by local community groups. ​

Light Ship by Circo Rum Baba

A glowing frigate rides the heaving waves as it battles the sea storms of the Chatham night. Its salt-soaked crew steer it through the streets desperately seeking refuge from the furious wind and waves. The captain bellows orders as the crew struggle with the sails and the figurehead wails with fear from beneath the bowsprit. ​Eventually, just as all seems lost, the figurehead spots land and the ship limps into refuge. As the sails are dropped the figurehead sings an aria so sweet that a Chatham albatross climbs the rigging and soars high above the deck in an accompanying aerial dance. The ship and crew are saved.​

A spokesperson for Circo Rum Baba said: “Ahoy There! Circo Rum Ba Ba are really excited to be working on our Light Ship to bring to Chatham for Medway Light Nights and especially as we will be working with some local Chatham folk who will be our Human Sea of Light. The wave lanterns they will be wearing have been designed by us and the brilliant Intra Arts and we are looking forward to the ship floating on a sea of glowing waves as it battles the elements in the parade. We are thrilled to have a troupe of local Sea Cadets who will be pulling the ship along the parade route and to have some local communities printing designs onto our sails. We are working with an opera singer as our figurehead and creating some great shadow puppets to move within the hull. The GOOD SHIP CHATHAM will be sailing through the streets of Chatham soon so see you there!”

Showcase the creative spirit of Medway

Cllr Howard Doe, Deputy Leader of Medway Council and Portfolio Holder for Community Services, said: “With less than a month to go until Medway Light Nights 2023, artists are busy finishing plans for their creative light displays and children will be finalising their lanterns at the creative workshops for their role in the parade, accompanied by musicians and street entertainers. We’re delighted to have so many children participating in the event, which aligns with one of our major ambitions – for Medway to be a Child-Friendly City and to put young people at the heart of everything we do. We look forward to welcoming both residents and those visiting the area down to Chatham for two nights showcasing the creative and artistic spirit of Medway.”

More details on Medway Light Nights, including travel arrangements, can be found on the Visit Medway website.

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