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18th Feb 2022

Illuminate is a must-visit for fans of art and history

Rory Cashin

As if we needed another reason to visit Derry…

Running from 6pm to 9pm, from Thursday 17 to Sunday 20 February, and again from Thursday 24 to 27 February, the Illuminate Trial takes visitors on a walking tour of their own pace. As you stop off at some landmarks around the walled city, each stopping point gives an insight into a particular era in Derry’s storied history.

Lovin attended the first night of the instillation, and even under threat of wind, rain and snow storms, the city was buzzing with an energy and pride of their latest must-visit attraction.

While you can join in the 1.5km stroll at any point, it is probably best to kick off at the City Walls overlooking Bogside, which takes us through over 1,000 years of history, including bloody Viking battles and the foundation of St Colmcille’s monastery.

This is accompanied by live musical and performance acts, including a trio of impressive fire poi artists, who assist in lighting up the night sky.

From there, you can continue your way around the city, with huge projected countdowns on important locations informing us when the next light-and-sound-show will begin.

We get a powerful insight into the political and religious story of the city, while also providing some unique facts some visitors may not have previously been aware of.

For example, during the section portrayed against the city’s beautiful Guildhall building, which covers 1789 to 1932, we learn that Derry have a thriving trade system in place America and Canada, as well as commemorating Amelia Earhart’s legendary landing in Derry, when bad weather knocked her off course from her original destination of Paris.

As we continued to walk the circumference of the city walls, thousands of people all taking in their surroundings in unison, the streets were littered with performance artists and musicians, as well as actors bringing another dimension to the events being projected on the walls behind them.

The further you walk along the trail, the closer to the modern day the stories get, culminating in the Reimagined City section, projected against St Columb’s Hall.

While there is obviously a powerful portion of the instillation dedicated to the 50 year anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Illumination project as a whole is a perfect representation of how forward-looking the city is in general.

It shows off the very layered history of the city, a place that already perfectly mixes the past and the present. Derry is literally walled off, but emphatically welcoming to visitors and tourists.

Illuminate represents a destination that wants to boldly show of its history in a profoundly modern way, and is exactly the kind of thing that other cities should be sitting up and taking notice of.

And where else would you get a city-wide attraction, one that is visually arresting and emotionally involving, and entirely for free!?

All details on the Illuminate instillation can be found on the Visit Derry website right here.