I don’t believe in New Year Resolutions because January is such a dreary, worn out month. Change doesn’t happen because of a calendar, it happens because we crave it, want it, need it, will die without it. But never does it have anything to do with it being January. It isn’t January’s fault it gets saddled with this burden of a new start, and it just isn’t up to the task. It is cold and wet and grey and broke and tired. The last thing it wants to do is try to transform lazy, disinterested people into svelte, well read, paragons of culture and intelligent thought, knowing that all we want to do is spend the month in bed listening to the Archers.
But this January there was some light in that darkness…lots of light, actually. London, with a little help from Mayor Boris Johnson and Artichoke, creative company that creates public, artistic events, draped itself in light and invited us all to admire, and admire we did. By the thousands, for 4 nights in mid-January. Lumiere London was crowded. Very crowded. But fabulous! More than 20 international artists illuminated buildings and spaces in the West End, Westminster, Kings Cross and Mayfair. Some large installments, like a fabulously farting elephant looming over Piccadilly. And delightful leaping, tumbling, jumping, dancing stick figures on Regent’s Street. An entire garden of bulbs, of the incandescent kind, filled Leicester Square, gigantic lilies of the valley and roses towering over photo snapping visitors.
Some were political, the plastic rubbish in the fountains in Trafalgar Sqaure to remind us of how disgracefully we treat our planet. Much of it whimsical, the dogs in the Coutts lobby were adorable. Elegant dresses changed from one jewel colour to another at Liberty. The shifting colours on Westminster Abbey was nothing short of magestic. Certainly the show stopper. My personal favourites were the human figures floating in the air and perched on window ledges in St. James’s Square. Eery, beautiful, haunting. Like angels or spectres or dreams.
The atmosphere, excuse the pun, was electric. People of all ages were out together, multi-generational families, friends, lovers enjoying the spectacle. Shops stayed open and coffee was the beverage of choice. queues outside the Prets and Costas were formidable, but this meant the streets weren’t filled with lurching, bellowing idiots, but polite, if slightly caffeinated, gawkers. Strangers moved out of each other’s way for photo shots and eagerly acted as tour guides for the lost. Couples of a certain age bickered over the map of attractions. “For goodness sake’s, let’s just follow the crowd” one exasperated women barked at her husband, a man intent on studying the crumple paper in his hand before moving, as hundreds streamed by in one direction. But the best part of all was just being out in the streets of London, in the dark, walking and walking, drinking in the beauty of the city.