Light Up Poole, the town’s annual festival of digital light art from 20 to 22 February, is looking to the future and giving a platform to the region’s emerging artists and technologists.

In a project entitled ‘Experimental’ students from Bournemouth University’s Media Production course will takeover Poole’s Dolphin Centre after dark with as many as 15 installations scattered throughout the shopping centre each evening. The pieces explore how technology can enhance art and make the science behind it more accessible to the audience.

“This is about asking students to re-imagine and re-use a commercial space in response to the festival’s theme of ‘Spectrum’,” explains light artist and part-time lecturer Liam Birtles. “So I’m asking students to think about the range of abilities, capabilities and capacity, as well as age, race and religion, but above all to make something beautiful because ultimately art is not doing its job if it is not accessible.

“The Dolphin Centre is a bright, shiny space with a surprising amount of visual clutter so the students have to deal with all of that and produce work that is not dwarfed by the space it is shown in. It’s a real challenge but Light Up Poole and the Dolphin Centre are to be applauded for being open to that challenge and for allowing this to happen.”

Elsewhere, art and design students from Bournemouth and Poole College will show their own interpretations of ‘Spectrum’ and host light painting workshops in empty shop spaces on Kingland Crescent; while the physicists and astronomers from the University of Southampton are back with The Photon Shop (pictured) at St James’s Community Hall. A big hit at last year’s Light Up Poole when more than 40,000 visitors came out on to the streets of Poole, there’s a new invitation to the public to assist in a range of workshop activities around understanding photonics and Dark Energy.

“Light Up Poole is very good at speaking to the whole community,” says Liam. “It’s about people realising they are allowed to come out and claim the streets and be part of something collective after dark in February, something that is interesting to look at and entertaining.”

Liam is also presenting two of his own pieces at this year’s festival. In ‘Multiplicity’, in front of the Port of Poole Marina, he’ll use strobe lights to slow down the movement of water so that the eye can focus on individual drops.

“When we think of rainfall we don’t necessarily think of it being made of lots of individual drops of water. It’s a simple idea but it should be pretty to look at – by isolating drops of water I’m hoping people will think of our own place as individuals belonging to a greater whole.”

‘Threshold’, at the Old Lifeboat Museum on Poole Quay, draws attention to the water’s edge on the launch ramp by projecting abstract animated images on the line between the land and the sea.

“I’m thinking about the lines we cross – on one side of the line we are one thing and on the other we become something else, so for instance lifeboat crews cross the line of the water’s edge in order to rescue people, but those lines could be borders and boundaries and to cross them could mean something else entirely.”

Also on the Quay, ‘Interception’ is an umbrella project designed by Audacious, James Smith and ROBE Lighting, the world’s fastest growing moving light manufacturer. Working with ROBE’s brand new iPointe lamps, the audience is invited to use lamps placed on the Quay to intercept a canopy of light over the harbour to create personalised light art sculptures.

“The piece uses Poole Harbour as a backdrop to highlight border control and segregation across the world,” explains Libby Battaglia of Audacious. “Audience participation amplifies the importance of inclusion as the installation moves and evolves. It is both large scale and intimate but not necessarily ever complete.”

Funded by Arts Council England and main sponsor Poole BID, with additional contributions from BCP Council and private businesses, Light Up Poole is now in its third year and is estimated to be worth around £1.6 million to the local economy.

Light Up Poole runs from Thursday 20 February until Saturday 22 February. Full details can be found at

Published 30 January 2020