Southend Illuminations: LuminoCity Festival of Light, Essex 2023
In celebration of Southend-on-Sea gaining city status, in February 2022 Southend hosted the LuminoCity Festival of Light event. Unfortunately Storm Eunice put a stopper on one of the nights. The continuing winds then meant a couple of the installations couldn’t take place on the following night either, but it was still a fun event to see. There is talk of the old Southend Illuminations along the seafront returning in 2022 (will update once confirmed!). Southend LuminoCity is returning in 2023!
There were 10 installations altogether along the High Street area and the seafront. I was hoping to see ‘Together’, a giant heart made from hands, joined together like an archway. But the wind put a stop to this one.
Silvana Light Maze
In the area outside the Focal Point Gallery, was the Silvana Light Maze. This was quite a small installation which you had to queue up to go through. I thought it was worth it though, I liked the colours and it was a good place for photos.
I found the most impressive installation to be Submergence. This large frame light structure had hundreds of lights hanging from cables. You could then stand in amongst the lights as they changed colour and had relaxing audio which was choreographed with the movement of the lights.
Angels of Freedom
Another High Street installation were the Angels of Freedom wings. There were several different ones at different heights that you could stand in front of. Some were between than the others, as they had stars on the wall behind!
Although the light up wings were only there during LuminoCity. If you head to Scoops 37 ice cream parlour on Marine Parade, they have a rainbow angel wings mural on the wall, which is there permanently.
Scribble Trees, Light Benches, Radiance
The area between the High Street and the seafront was also illuminated. At the top of the hill in front of The Royals Shopping Centre were 2 ‘Scribble Trees’ and ‘Light Benches’. Even during the day time these shone bright!
The trees in The Shrubbery cliff gardens were all illuminated with different coloured lights (Radiance). This was meant to be a nod back to the former Never Never Land which was in this location once upon a time. It originally opened in the 1930s and was like a fairytale land with various sculptures, but shut in 1972. It reopened in 1987 and closed again in 2001 after it was vandalised.
At the bottom of the gardens along the Western Esplanade, there is a large castle sculpture that can be seen year round.
House of Cards
The House of Cards was located on Southend Pier, the longest pleasure pier in the world. The installation was created from 125 playing cards that were lit up with a choreographed light show. The lights were designed to look like the cards were being built up and falling down. With the high winds on the evening I visited, I’m surprised they didn’t blow into the Thames Estuary!
Even as an adult with no kids, I enjoyed having a go on the Wave-Field! There were 8 see-saws along the seawall. When they went up and down it made the different ends light up. Each also created sounds. They didn’t have any form of queuing or timed system, so it was a bit of a free for all. I would have liked a longer turn, but when people are staring at you, it does pressure you to hurry up and get off!
Southend LuminoCity 2023 Dates
February Half Term | 16 – 18 February 2023
As mentioned above, there has been talk of bringing back the Southend Seafront Illuminations during the winter months. However several of the arcades on Marine Parade are lit up year round. Electric Avenue, Monte Carlo and New York New York are particularly good ones.