As if there wasn’t enough going in York on this half term during the day (quick recap: York Festival of Storytelling, Piglets Pumpkin Festival, York Maze Halloween, loads of free activities at the York Castle Museum and Yorkshire Museum…), by night the city will be transformed by cutting edge illuminations. The ninth Illuminating York festival will see hidden gems and more obvious landmarks brought to life as never before. This year’s theme is Illuminating the Past, Enlightening the Future, with a nod to York’s Viking past. So there will be lots of Viking-themed activities going on that little Vikings might enjoy (if it’s not past their bedtime). The festival runs in the evenings from 30 October to 2 November.
What to See
There will be two ticketed events, one at the Museum Gardens and another at Cliffords Tower (visit York Theatre Royal box office for more details and to purchase). But there’s plenty to see for free, too. For a taster of the festival without spending a thing, wander through the streets and see if you can find these artworks.
- A Shadow Play of Mystical Tales – Memorial Gardens, Leeman Road – Myths, music and magical characters in this fiery sculptural installation. A carousel of optical illusion reveals fantastical characters and mysterious tales told using fire. Shadows will weave back and forth against the night sky to music.
- The Ice, the Land and the Sea – Projected onto JORVIK Viking Centre – The story of a young girl who left her home far across the North Sea and travelled to York 1000 years ago, crossing paths with great characters from the Viking age.
- Sampo – St Helen’s Church, York – Inspired by ‘Sampo Lappelill’, a Finnish fairy tale, using the facade of the church, Sampo explores themes of good and evil, light and dark, innocence and experience.
- Thor’s Oak: A York Thing – Parliament Street – A sculpted oak tree combining traditional willow work and high-tech active lighting. The Vikings had one of the earliest forms of northern European parliaments that were called Things – allowing people of the city to meet and discuss issues and settle disputes, and this illumination is a tribute to that.
As well as the illuminating artworks, there’s a programme of fringe events in some of the city’s favourite attractions. We’ve got our eye on these family-friendly ones, just as long as the kids can keep their eyes open.
DIG For a Quid
Hands-on archaeology experience DIG is one of our favourite attractions for kids. So we’re quite excited about the prospect of DIG for a Quid, which gives visitors the chance to meet Vikings face to face in their garden encampment, see bespoke animation and get digging in the interactive archaeological pits. Lots of fun and a bargain for just £1.
DIG For a Quid – DIG – 30th October to 2nd November – 6.30pm to 9pm – £1 – No booking required
Head to JORVIK Viking Centre between 6.30pm and 9pm to witness The Ice, the Land and the Sea (a story of a young girl who left her home across the North Sea and travelled to York 1000 years ago). If you want the full experience, you can then step back in time at the Viking Centre and see it as never before. The 10th Century will be brought back to life with warriors and citizens populating the streets of the city of Jorvik.
Jorvik Alive – Jorvik Viking Centre – 30th October to 2nd November – 6.30pm to 9pm – adult £9.75; child £6.75; family of four £27; family of five £29; 25% discount for Illuminating York ticket holders and York Residents (with proof of residence).
York Minster Nights
No Vikings here. Instead, discover the beauty of York Minster by night, as colour, shadow and light merge to mark the festivals of All Saints and All Souls. Light a candle in memory of a loved one and help create a stunning spiral of light. Wander freely in the awe-inspiring 276-foot nave, emptied for the first time this decade. Watch as ancient meets modern, when some of the country’s top urban artists create dramatic pieces inspired by the Minster’s historic graffiti and medieval stained-glass. A pop-up café, run jointly with the National Trust, will serve hot and cold drinks and snacks.
York Minster Nights – York Minster – 30th October to 2nd November – Entry from 6pm on 30 and 31 October and 7pm on 1 and 2 November – adult £5, child £2.50
Barley Hall By Candlelight
Located on the doorstep of York Minster, Barley Hall is a stunning medieval townhouse and one of York’s hidden secrets. By day, it’s got a brilliant Horrible Histories exhibition that’s a huge hit with little fans of all things gory. During Illuminating York, see Barley Hall’s softer side as it’s bathed in candlelight. Watch Viking themed animation and warm up with a tipple or hot drink from the tavern.
Barley Hall by Candlelight – Barley Hall – 30 October to 2 November – 7pm to 9pm – Free entry (no need to book)
The Bloody Tour of York
The Bloody Tour of York is a unique 90 minute walking tour of the city. With Mad Alice as your guide, discover some of the horrifying tales that lurk around every corner. Each guest will receive a candle to take with them around the streets recreating the eerie glow of times past. Rediscover the city in a new light, literally. For brave little Vikings only!
The Bloody Tour of York – Meet by the statue of Constantine, York Minster – 30 October to 2 November – 6pm to 7.30pm – adults £5, children £3 (no booking required)
In the Museum Night Garden – York Museum Gardens
This is a magical opportunity to learn more about the night life in York Museum Gardens, from owls and bats to telescopes and stars. Hear about the plans for hedgehog mapping, listen to nocturnal stories in the enchanted, fairy-lit glade and marvel at a fantastic fire show. A memorable evening for all.
York Museum Gardens – Wednesday 30th October – 5pm to 9pm – Free – No booking required but capacity is limited – Entry via the Marygate entrance only.