Light Up Poole, the annual festival of digital light art will return to the town in February and reach beyond the streets after dark with a series of talks that are every bit as illuminating as the light art installations to be seen outdoors.

Responding to the festival’s theme of ‘Spectrum’ the speakers include TV historian Dr Janina Ramirez; Professor Mark McCaughrean, Senior Science Advisor at the European Space Agency; medieval history expert Professor Giles Gaspar from Durham University; Bournemouth-based lighting designer Michael Grubb on telling stories with light; Cressida Granger, MD of Mathmos and researchers from Oxford University’s Diseases of Modern Life Group compare how the Victorians coped with the impact of new technology with how we deal with it today.

Funded by Arts Council England and main sponsor Poole BID, with additional contributions from BCP Council and private businesses, Light Up Poole runs from 20 to 22 February showcasing the work of local, emerging and international artists with a series of commissioned digital light art installations and projections as well as creative participation events, educational elements and guest speakers to show Poole in a new light.

The talks are ticketed events held at Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts, on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 February, culminating in the Light Up Family Rave in the Concert Hall when Berlin Underground DJ Kenny Mitchell and urban grooves selectress-mixologist DJ Pixi J blend Brooklyn attitude and London swagger.

“Each talk is an opportunity for people to come along and find out a bit more about the stories behind the Art they are going to see in the festival,” says light artist Ross Ashton who has programmed the talks and as The Projection Studio showed works at last year’s Light Up Poole, including the memorable ‘Horizon’ and ‘Zenith’ projections at St James’s Church.

“We’re covering a wide range of topics with some fascinating responses to the ‘Spectrum’ theme. I don’t know of any other light festivals that are doing this, but we’ve done a lot of work with academics and found the cross pollination of ideas is huge. Certainly, having been in conversation with them we’ve found we’re able to create Art in a very different way. It’s a two way street of good ideas.”

This year they will show the projection work they made to accompany ‘Sex and Drugs and Overload’ (pictured), the talk by Oxford University’s Diseases of Modern Life Group.

“It reveals that the way we talk about how technology is invading our lives, causing stress, changing too fast and causing information overload is exactly how the Victorians spoke of it. They worried about the same things in the same terms as we do.

“Suddenly the guy in the village who had been connected to the next town by horse and had to wait a couple of days for information to arrive was connected to Scotland by train and to the United States by the telegraph that brings updates every few minutes. They thought information travelled too fast for the truth, just as we do. They didn’t find any more answers than we have, other than trying to get away from it all at the seaside or spa towns.”

The programme of talks also includes Cressida Granger, managing director of Mathmos, the Poole-based lighting company responsible for the original lava lamp in 1963. She’ll talk about the company’s founder, eccentric entrepreneur Edward Craven Walker, and stories from the company’s rich local history.

“We’re really excited about the partnership with Light Up Poole, it seems like it was always meant to be,” says Cressida, who has owned Mathmos since the 1990s.

“We’re very proud of the fact we have been making the lava lamp in Poole for 56 years. There can’t be many products in manufacturing with that kind of heritage. Mathmos has had its ups and downs over the years and the business has expanded and contracted but it has never gone away and next year we are moving into a bigger factory in the centre of Poole, which is really exciting.”

As part of Light Up Poole 2020 Mathmos will unveil an installation of their heritage and new products at Poole Museum, from the original 1963 Astro lava lamp to the recently launched giant iO lamp. The company will also screen a video about its history and the part Poole has played in the development of what has become a design classic. A specially designed trail will guide children around the museum as they collect the parts needed to make an Astra lava lamp. The trail will end in a lava lamp lounge near the café.

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

Published 16 December 2019