Who hasn’t been captivated by the simple visual pleasures of watching a moonlit sky? Or found a haven in a room lit exclusively by candlelight? Or has joyfully gasped along at a fireworks display, as each new explosion of light and colour held their gaze? Light seems to have a strong effect on us, it entertains our eyes and with it our emotions.
From the 7th December till the 20th of January Amsterdam will be hosting the Light Festival for the first time. As if the city’s pretty canals, charming architecture and rich history wasn’t enough, a walk around town between those dates will exceed your usual Amsterdam experience. The festival celebrates light as a means of bringing people together, creating art and adding that extra ‘wow factor’ to a winter night stroll. So expect to be enchanted by numerous illuminated bridges and locks, lit up boats at the Christmas Canal Parade and artists exploring light as a theme and medium.
Amsterdam seems to be the perfect spot to enjoy this 40 day extravaganza. The Dutch do not give into winter hibernation so easily, in fact the cold is an inevitable truth braved day in and day out mounted on a bicycle wrapped up in a woolly scarf. Or on a cafe’s terrace enjoying a hot chocolate under a blanket provided by the establishment. The organisers certainly did not mi-schedule this outdoor event, but rather, probably considered that summer already has too much under its belt in terms of open-air entertainment. So wrap up warm and join the locals in this winter wonderland. Furthermore, another reason the Light Festival will benefit from its location is of course the city’s many canals, which will serve as a playground for the lights reflected upon them.
The festival’s main programme consists of four features, but please check the website for extra activities www.amsterdamlightfestival.com.
The backdrop of the festival, The Boulevard of Light will transform the historical Amstel River as iconic buildings, bridges and locks are bathed in light and colour. The displays between Muntplein and the Amstel Hotel are better left undisclosed, as a slow walk down this magical route will probably not be done justice with only words.
The link between art and light is one that goes back to the roots of painting itself, even before the impressionists out-rightly devoted their skills to the nature of light and its role in shaping our visual world. Illuminade celebrates this relationship with a showcase of light art sculptures and concepts, by established and up-coming artists. Dotted all around the city, Illuminade will be an exhibition like no other.
The Socialight (hence the name) is a social programme aimed at actively involving the local community in the events. Included is the Children’s Lampshades Forest at Waterlooplein, a collection of lampshades painted by 500 children especially for the festival. On the 22nd December, participate in the exciting ( and as I anticipate also hilarious) Light my Ride, a 15km riding tour where you will not only be required to have your front and back lights on but a whole lot more. Get competitive and aim for the brightest, most overdone if not bearing on vulgar decoration for your set of wheels.
The Light Festival has also paired up with the Christmas Canal Parade to offer families and Christmas enthusiasts the ultimate seasonal experience. If you get excited by coniferous trees adorned with cheap fairylights you will be enthralled by what expects you at the Canal Parade on the 15th December. Sailing, pageantry and touring boats will serve as floating stages for choirs, theatre and of course, light displays. Whoever said Christmas could not get any more indulgent…