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See the Northern Lights Projected onto the Magnificent Roof of Leeds Corn Exchange

· Ali Turner · Christmas

This Christmas, Leeds Corn Exchange will be lit up by a spectacular light installation that mimics The Northern Lights.

Northern Lights

By now, you’ve probably realised that Christmas in Leeds is going to be a little bit different this year, and nowhere is that more apparent than at Leeds Corn Exchange.

Not only is Leeds Corn Exchange filled with independent boutiques, perfect for Christmas shopping, but it’s now also home to a beautiful light installation that uses the colours and shapes of Christmas to recreate The Northern Lights. The projection, which can be seen both inside and outside the Corn Exchange, is the ultimate artistic collaboration, bringing together art, scenography and tech, to impressive effect.

It’s the work of local artist Dave Lynch, he’s the man behind Project Nimbus, a 4-year undertaking that challenged artists and scientists to work together to project a moving image onto clouds. They succeeded, sending Horse in Motion (Muybridge 1878) galloping through the sky in 2015, and the project has since been nominated for the STARTS Prize of the Ars Electronica Festival.

Dave worked with Suzie Cross on Project Nimbus, and he’s working with her again on The Northern Lights – she actually curated and managed Light Night 2016, so she’s well acquainted with the challenges of turning the city’s landmarks into art. They’ve joined forces with Adam Glatherine, Managing Direcor at G3 Lighting Design, and Paul Sheard, a light artist from Leeds company 3D Projections, whose tech wizardry is usually reserved for arena tours for the likes of Beyonce.

Northern Lights

Credit: Ali Turner

Together, they’ve created something very special indeed. It’s essentially The Northern Lights experience, without the travel. Inside, it will transform your shopping experience, creating an almost meditative atmosphere that’s completely at odds with the chaos of Christmas shopping. It’s one of the reasons why they chose Leeds Corn Exchange in the first place, because as well as being one of the only Grade I listed buildings in the city centre with a beautiful domed roof that mirrors the earth, it’s also a bustling shopping destination.

It’s hard to imagine, but Lynch paints a vivid picture, “Imagine that the Northern Lights have poured out of the building and are slowly running down onto the floor, so as people walk through into the building, they’re bathed in light. Outside it’s going to be moving in a slightly different way because of traffic and health and safety and various different things, but it’s going to be like a waterfall. You won’t see anything like it. We’re using technology that’s only just come out and we’ve got a building that’s pretty much one of a kind.”

Northern Lights

Credit: Ali Turner

The tech he’s talking about hits the clouds, just like it did with Project Nimbus, which means their projections won’t just light up the Corn Exchange, they’ll also seep out into the atmosphere. On rainy and foggy days, when the clouds are low enough, you should be able to see the projection in the air itself, so as well as transforming your shopping experience, it will also tempt people in – and that’s all part of the plan.

You see, The Northern Lights has been funded by Leeds BID, to help support the city’s retail offering and give people even more reasons to visit Leeds during the festive season. It’s part of a larger #christmasinleeds trail that’s set to transform key areas of the city, while showcasing the amazing artistic talent we have here. Inevitably, this desire to support local artists led them to East Street Arts, one of the city’s most prolific arts organisations – and that’s how The Northern Lights began.

Northern Lights

Credit: Ali Turner

“I’ve been working at East Street Arts since 2002 – and I was really keen to talk to Leeds BID about doing all sorts of different projects, about them being able to invest in art in the city and buy things for the city, so that art can thrive here. And East Street Arts are doing exactly the same thing, so they invited me in to do a talk before lots of the other ideas were being pitched, and that’s where it started really,” Lynch explained.

It’s a partnership that’s very much led by the artists, so while Leeds BID have helped wherever they can, they haven’t interfered. “I think there’s something really nice about Leeds BID wanting to invest in people from Leeds and grow that, but they also trust in the art – as opposed to saying ‘actually, that’s really good, but can we just put a logo right in the middle’. I think that’s really good, and the more that can happen, the more we can grow opportunities for artists in the city.”

The Northern Lights promises to be one of the most mesmerising sights you’ll see this Christmas – so why not support the city’s artists and independents by picking up a few presents in a unique setting?

The Northern Lights will be at Leeds Corn Exchange until 3rd January 2017. During that time, you’ll be able to see it from 4pm to close every day.