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‘Imaginative and exciting’: SPECTRA returns to Aberdeen

Festival held in collaboration with Curated Place and various other artists


By Megan Widley


Photo Credit: Megan Widley


Following a commission by Aberdeen City Council, SPECTRA – Scotland’s leading urban light festival – returned to Aberdeen last month. The festival took place from the 9th to the 12th of February where thousands enjoyed an array of lights and displays in the heart of the city.


The display was created in partnership with Curated Place, an ‘arts-led cultural production agency’. Andy Brydon – the festival and major events director – has 15 years of experience working with arts organisations. The Curated Place website states that Brydon works with performers, musicians and artists ‘to create high-impact, high-quality content rich exhibitions and experiences.’


In the past, SPECTRA has achieved a number of awards such as The Drum Scottish Event Award for two consecutive years. SPECTRA aims to create connections between Aberdeen’s past, present and future. SPECTRA’s website states that they recognise and embrace ‘the strong connection and long lost history shared across the region's visual culture and storytelling in the construction of identity beyond national borders.’


The displays were designed to reflect such ideals, drawing inspiration from the landscape and the literature of Scotland’s northern regions. The displays attempt to explore how visual aspects such as lights and sound alongside stories and artworks ‘have acted as the precursors to our rapidly shifting modern experiences of space and place.’


A number of light and sound displays were showcased across Union Terrace Gardens, the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Marischal College from 6:30pm to 10:00pm over the 4 nights. The festival contained displays from multiple artists spread across the 3 key locations.


Perhaps one of the most striking is ‘The Waxwing Wanes’ exhibit by Illuminos which consists of an array of images, lights and sounds projected onto His Majesty’s Theatre. This display takes inspiration from the continuously changing climate, a pressing and topical matter at the moment.


The display aims to express ‘the flow of sea ice around Svalbard, and the dramatic shifts in temperature we are witnessing. As the moon waxes and wanes, the waxwings continue their migrations to and from Aberdeen, joined by sanderling, redshank and fieldfare.’ During the display, spectators were able to see the effects of climate change due to melting ice and rising seas.


Illuminos was created by brothers Matt and Rob Vale, who have been creating visual artistic works for 10 years. They often create work that expresses ‘an exploration of the emotions of an environment, aiming to capture the essence of a place, space, or feeling as a shared moment of time.’

In a press release, Aberdeen City Council lauded SPECTRA’s return, commenting that they had invested a quarter of a million pounds in the installation, with the aim of attracting thousands of spectators to the city centre.


Councillor Martin Greig said: ‘The Spectra lightshow is a splendid community event that gives so much fun and enjoyment to many people of all ages.’

‘It is great to be able to offer this wide range of vibrant, sparkling exhibits that create such a festive atmosphere. The displays are imaginative and exciting and are a great form of entertainment for this time of year.’


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