Portsmouth's stunning We Shine light festival kicks off in amazing fashion

PORTSMOUTH’S first major light festival kicked off in stunning fashion, as hundreds of residents marvelled at the city-wide displays.

By Tom Cotterill
Thursday, 18th November 2021, 9:13 pm

After being delayed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the illuminations were finally switched on for the much-anticipated We Shine Portsmouth event.

The free cultural showcase, staged by arts body Portsmouth Creates, is running until Saturday evening and features the best of the city’s up-and-coming visual artists, as well as top national talent.

Billie Coe, event organiser at Portsmouth Creates, was thrilled to unveil the spectacle to the people across Portsea.

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The Ship of the Gods Projection at St Mary's Church Picture: Habibur Rahman

She said: ‘I’m feeling frazzled but really excited. This has been something we have been desperate to do.

‘The reaction has been really good. People have been really impressed which is great.

‘This is something that really is wonderful for the city. Portsmouth is sometimes perceived in a wrong light by those people outside the city.

‘But those who live here know how fantastic it can be and how much talent the city has. We want to showcase that talent to everyone.’

The Ship of the Gods Picture: Habibur Rahman

The festival was launched during an event at St Mary’s Church, in Fratton – which is home to the centrepiece of the three-day bonanza: The Ship of the Gods.

The huge 3D light projection dominates the inside of the worship site and was created by Portsmouth-based artists Anna Heinrich and Leon Palmer.

Anna said: ‘This is just thrilling and really exciting. St Mary’s Church is an amazing space for it. It could have been made for it.’

Leon added: ‘The display plays with your senses and the illusionary quality. It’s immersive. You have these large ships coming towards you. But you also see buildings within. It’s like an augmented reality.’

Ship of the Gods artists Anna Heinrich and Leon Palmer at St Mary's Church Picture: Habibur Rahman

Some 12 displays are focused across the city centre, in and around the Commercial Road area.

Among them includes an impressive projection by artist Thomas Buckley, which features a series of butterflies – created by children from Portsmouth – that are beamed onto the wall of the Astoria nightclub.

In nearby Victoria Park, there are a series of installations created by visual artists that will be on display every night of the festival.

While in the Eldon Building of the University, Portsmouth-based visually-impaired artist Clarke Reynolds has created an exhibition about space using braille and sounds.

Tim Rusby, chairman of Portsmouth Creates, was thrilled by all the work the artists had put in during the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to the crowd at the launch event in St Mary’s, he added he was hopeful the ‘darkness’ Covid-19 would soon be gone.

‘Ninety-six years ago the city of Portsmouth adopted it’s motto: “Heaven's light, our guide”,’ he said. ‘So it seems pertinent that we should mark what we all hope will be the gradual ending of this long Covid pandemic with a festival of light and celebration of creativity and optimism –particularly as so many of the stars behind this festival are home-grown talent.’

For a full map and details on the festival, see weshineportsmouth.co.uk

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