Saturday 16 December 2017

My Big Idea: How I will light up our fair city with free festival feast for the eyes

Inspired by light shows held by other European cities, visual artist Lesley Tully has launched her own festival in Dublin. It will employ about 40 people when it goes into production this November, just over a year after she got started.

"Illuminate Dublin is a free lighting festival that will be held in the city centre for four days every November. Our first one takes place this year.

"Lots of people will be familiar with light shows on a smaller scale – like the projections on the front of Trinity College during the Trinity Ball, or the "greening of Dublin" light displays during the St Patrick's Day parade. But this is city-wide.

"It involves lighting displays on a host of historically and architectural important buildings, landmarks and forgotten spaces as well as video projections, neon sculptures and interactive installations.

"There will also be lectures with artists and technology experts. People see the arts as elitist but this is open and accessible to everyone.

"The festival required about €500,000 in funding; half of this has been sourced privately and half publicly, from groups like Dublin City Council, National Library of Ireland, the RHA gallery, the National Gallery of Ireland and Dublin City Business Association.

"Getting funding has been my biggest challenge, particularly on the private sector side, because it takes people a long time to make decisions.

"At the same time, raising half a million in a year is a pretty serious achievement.

"This is a non-profit effort but the definition of entrepreneurship is not limited to profit-making businesses.

"This is my sole job now, heading up a team of six, and we will ultimately employ about 40 when we go into production.

"I'm proud of the employment the festival provides directly, even without the indirect benefits for local employers.

"Illuminate Dublin will be based this year in the south Dublin city centre, because that area is very accessible by public transport, though we hope to expand in future.

"I estimate it will reach about half a million people. A similar light festival in Lyon in France brings in about four million visitors a year who together spend about €30m, so that is what we are working towards.

"Considering that 110,000 people pass by the front of Trinity College every day, where one of our displays will be, this is a chance to reach a lot of people. One part of the festival in College Green will be interactive, and about 10,000 people should take part in that alone.

"The increase in footfall will be a boost to the local economy, so we have had a lots of support from the private sector.

"The festival will have its own discount card offering deals from local businesses. I grew up working in retail and I know how hard November is; it's a very slow time for retailers. This will help when they most need it.

"I have a background in film and the arts and was project director for Dublin Contemporary, the art festival that took place in 2011. Being part of a project of that size, with a budget of €4m, helped prepare and inspire me."

Irish Independent

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