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SPECTRA 2024: Aberdeen’s Dazzling Decade of Light and Connection

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SPECTRA, the esteemed festival of light in Scotland, shall make its grand return to Aberdeen.

Presenting a compelling schedule of complimentary artworks and events shall illuminate the city from the 8th to the 11th of February in 2024.

A leading light of the North East’s year-round cultural calendar, Spectra is delivered by Aberdeen City Council and created in collaboration with local company Live Event Management. With the festival marking its tenth anniversary this year, the programme will celebrate the theme of ‘Connections’ with an eye-catching array of free artworks and installations for visitors of all ages.

Festival favourites Heinrich & Palmer will return to the city with a spectacular new artwork charting the maritime story of Aberdeen, from tall ships to oil rigs, and a transition towards a renewable future. The large-scale 3D projection will take over the Sculpture Court at Aberdeen Art Gallery. Following the conclusion of the festival the piece will also become a part of the Gallery’s permanent collection.

The Gallery’s Remembrance Hall will feature Butterfly Dream, a luminously beautiful installation by artist Anne Bennett. A flight of hand-cast and neon-flecked butterflies will individually sway above the heads of the audience in the hall, reflecting the fragility and gentle power of ecosystems threatened by human interventions.

Illumaphonium dazzled Spectra audiences at Union Terrace Gardens in 2022, and the team returned with a new immersive artwork for 2023. Continuum will see Broad Street transformed by an awe-inspiring geometric matrix of mirrored and luminescent sonic monoliths – opening an infinite, mysterious and magical space within and around the audience, encouraging them to create paths and connections with each other and the environment.

Union Terrace Gardens will host two new interactive installations throughout the festival. Affinity by Amigo & Amigo is a colossal light sculpture which invites audiences into a network of light globes inspired by the connections in the human brain. As more people interact with the sculpture they become immersed in a dazzling blend of light and sound, with each connection illuminating the surroundings in colour and brightness.

Meanwhile, Submergence by arts collective Squidsoup will see UTG illuminated by thousands of points of suspended light. An immersive experience that blends sound and light in a semi-linear 12-minute performance, Submergence invites audiences into a hybrid environment where the boundaries between virtual and physical worlds begin to blur.

Submergence, Canary Wharf, Image Rikard Osterlund 2019

Studio Vertigo, the collaborative project of artists Lucy McDonnell and Stephen Newby, will bring two luminous and playful light sculptures to the festival programme. Spin Me A Yarn, an oversized ball of radiant wool with a long trail of yarn that invites audiences to follow its path, will appear in Union Terrace Gardens. Meanwhile Our Beating Heart will see a giant mirror ball-style rotating heart bring dancing dapples of light to the streets of Schoolhill.

Edinburgh-based light artist Flora Litchfield’s Lightstream will weave a soundscape of light and voice into the courtyard of Marischal College, with snippets of speech, melody, and oral histories accompanying a flow of laser light above the audience creating a vivid visual journey.

Photographer David Gilliver will be engaged to run workshops for local S5/S6 pupils and college students, exploring the possibilities of light painting and photography. The images produced from the workshops will be curated and displayed, by projection, in the windows of empty shop units on Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate. In addition, an instruction manual will be made on ‘how to create your own light painting’ which will be shared with local youth groups and made available on the SPECTRA website.

The programme will also feature some returning favourites, including neon face painting at Marischal Square by local artist Ulianka, and Spectra’s resident storyteller Pauline Cordiner, who will welcome audiences to Cowdray Hall with storytelling for all ages in English, Scots, and Doric. There will be tales old and new, from Aberdeen and beyond, bringing visitors together to connect through the power of stories. 

The festival programme will also include a special commission focussed on local artists marking Spectra’s tenth anniversary year, with full details to be announced later this month.

“Aberdeen City Council is pleased to announce the programme for Spectra in this milestone tenth anniversary year. Spectra began as a small-scale pilot event in 2014. Over the years it has grown into a major festival for everyone in the north east to enjoy. This year’s theme is ‘Connections’. The aim is to bring together as many people to experience the spectacular installations. The event will, once again, be a great time for fun and friendship.”

Cllr Martin Greig, Aberdeen City Council Culture Spokesperson

EventScotland has been a proud supporter of Spectra and are delighted to be continuing our support as part of our National Events Programme in 2024. It has been wonderful to see how the event has evolved and grown since its inception in 2014, bringing a spark of inspiration to the winter months in the North-East over the last 10 years.

This year’s theme of ‘Connections’ also reinforces the important role events like Spectra play in our communities, allowing us all to come together and share memorable experiences, whilst also strengthening Scotland’s position as the perfect stage for events.”

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events

More information on the programme can be found at www.spectrafestival.com

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