FRATTON was lit up on a dark cold night as the community came out in force to celebrate its variety of cultures.
Despite the bad weather, sparking a last-minute change of plan to the planned procession along Fratton Road, dozens braved the conditions to soak up the annual Festival of Lights at St Mary’s Church last night.
Groups from the community marched with lanterns to the beat put on by the Portsmouth-based Batala samba group.
Many of those attending had been to workshops and created neon light work for the project titled ‘speaks for the community’ – representing the diversity of languages spoken in Fratton.
The neon artwork created included a range of cultures including Bengali, Chinese, Somalian, Hebrew, Arabic and many more – with the letters meant to be a visual celebration rather than to read as a meaningful sentence.
Father Bob White, speaking at the Art Council and National Lottery funded event in collaboration with Aspex Gallery and Fratton Big Local, said: ‘We’ve had about 300 people who have helped make the artwork. It’s been a good turnout for what is a celebration of the different cultures we have here in Fratton.
‘It’s great to bring everyone together at this time of year and light up the community.’
Those at St Mary’s certainly seemed to be enjoying the occasion. Mum Julie Tipler, 42, of Fratton, whose daughter Hollie, 6, was part of the procession, said: ‘It’s a shame the weather stopped us going along Fratton Road but it’s such a nice thing to do and everyone has had such a good time. The lanterns took a while to make but looked lovely.’
Christopher Reynolds, 40, of North End and his daughter Brooke, 13, enjoyed the occasion. Christopher said: ‘Brooke was part of the procession last year and really enjoyed it so that’s why we came back. The kids love the lights and it’s something different to enjoy.’
Brooke, who made a lantern with her friend Lizzie Le’ Merquand, said: ‘We did it last year but this time it’s been even better.’
Artist Alison Carlier said community groups had been working on making the neon light work since September. ‘The project is a visual way to celebrate all the different languages in Fratton and is great way to bring everyone together,’ she said.
The neon will be up for five nights from the afternoon to late in the evening before it’s taken down and given a permanent home somewhere in the city.