This year, your Christmas shopping will come with all the razzle-dazzle of the Capital thanks to this head-turning light installation…
The city’s main thoroughfare will be given a heartwarming glow this Christmas with the return of Dear Leeds. A triumph of neon that celebrates everything we are and everything we’ve been through, it’s back bigger and better than ever for 2021. Not only is it twice the size of last year but it’s got twice as much heart too, so get down to Briggate and welcome back Christmas!
James Glancy Design is the company responsible for London’s biggest and most spectacular Christmas displays. They’ve worked with Carnaby Street for the last 23 years, creating a new design every year, each more impressive than the last, and they’re also the people behind the famous ‘Spirit of Christmas’ installation that floats above shoppers on Regent Street.
But for the second year in a row, you can see their creations much closer to home because LeedsBID commissioned them to produce a huge festive light installation for Briggate. Inspired by Kate Ryrie’s poem, Dear Leeds is a homage to the people and businesses that make the city special – and this year, it’s bigger and better than ever!
“We really need more wow factor on Briggate, we need to treat it like Oxford Street and give it as much focus as possible as the centre of the city,” Andrew Cooper, Chief Executive of LeedsBID, told us. “But rather than the usual Christmas thing, we wanted something that would reflect the cultural and creative DNA of our city, something that’s different, something that’s Leeds.”
And that’s exactly what they did. Dear Leeds is a message of hope and solidarity written in four tonnes of neon. Each decal is suspended in the air above Briggate and stands at between six and eight metres. Brightly coloured vinyl outlines the neon, so even in daylight they’re impossible to miss, and mirrored Dibond makes it look like they’re floating in the air.
The messages are designed to work together or apart, and they tell a different story depending on which way you’re walking down the street. One way, it reads, ‘Dear Leeds, we are your people’, ‘Past, present and future’, ‘Of big smiles and bigger hearts’, ‘Stand bravely together’, then continues on to say, ‘With butterflies in our bellies’, ‘Step into the limelight’, ‘Your cobbles beneath your feet’, ‘Leeds, this is your story…’
If you’re walking the other way, you’ll begin with the same message, but follow the lights from ‘The place where you celebrate’, past ‘The dream you embrace’ and on to ‘A legacy to be proud of’, before you reach ‘The place you call home’, ‘Marching on together’, ‘Where tomorrow is ours’ and ‘This is your time, love Leeds.’ It’s a rousing speech, told in neon glory.
The installation is already in place, and the lights were switched on early to celebrate Light Night. So what are you waiting for? Dear Leeds is the perfect excuse to head into Leeds for a little Christmas shopping or to enjoy a night in one of the city’s many pubs, bars and restaurants. Or you could just pop by after work to kickstart your festive spirit.
“For us, it’s all about visual impact. When someone turns a corner, we want them to take a sharp intake of breath, then take a picture and stay a while,” James Glancy, Founder of James Glancy Designs, told us. “We try to make our designs very camera-friendly too. What we’re hoping is that the designs will be sent around to friends, to as many places as possible on social media.”
That shareability is more important now than ever because we’ve got making up to do. Christmas was effectively cancelled last year, so we missed our festive get-togethers and outings, but now, we can reunite under a canopy of neon. Take a selfie, shoot a video, even FaceTime with friends live, because Christmas is a time of sharing.
Putting this together was no mean feat. The installation is connected to sixteen different buildings, each with a different landlord and tenant – so even just getting permissions to install new fixings was a mammoth endeavour. It’s been a real collaborative effort. But it all came together in the end – and we’re so glad it did.
Dear Leeds will light the Leeds skies throughout the festive season.