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SLL celebrates the fifth anniversary of the original Night of Heritage Light

The 01 October 2020 marks the five-year anniversary of the first Society of Light and Lighting (SLL), Night of Heritage Light (NoHL). 

On 1st October 2015, the SLL lit 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites in celebration of the International Year of Light, including Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, Blenheim Palace, the Tower of London and Ironbridge Gorge. Each site was allocated a design team, led by a recognised lighting professional and SLL member. The event was also supported by over a hundred lighting professionals, representing 50 organisations.

Bleanavon Industrial Landscape. Photo: Kenton Simons

Supported by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), of which the SLL is division, the Night of Heritage Light was designed to showcase the skills and creativity of lighting design professionals to the nation as a whole. It achieved 26 media appearances including the BBC’s The One Show, as well as featuring in 14 regional publications, reaching an audience of over 13 million people.

Blenheim Palace. Photo: Sotirios Stamatopoulos

The idea for NoHL was originally conceived by then President of the Society, Liz Peck and Dan Lister, SLL Regional Representative for Yorkshire, following a committee meeting at the CIBSE offices. Keen to make the most of the UNESCO International Year of Light, they reached out to other members of the SLL, forming the core organisation team alongside Rhiannon West and Simon Fisher, with support from SLL Secretary, Brendan Keely and  Coordinator, Juliet Rennie.

Edinburgh Old Town. Photo: Robert Galloway

With 26 World Heritage sites around the UK, the team began by eliminating some of the sites that were already well lit and others that should never be lit (Durham Cathedral and Stonehenge), deciding on a total of 10 sites, the team set out to create a ‘light map’ of the UK.

Fountains Abbey. Photo: George Hodlin

The team liaised with the National Trust, English Heritage and other organisations who work daily to promote and preserve these historic sites. Design teams then developed detailed concepts of how to bring them to light. The Society received invaluable support from numerous manufacturers, who lent luminaires and infrastructure partners, who provided generators and cabling. The Royal Photographic Society encourages their members to get involved by documenting the night, while the Electrical Contractors Association provided extra electricians to ensure everyone’s safety.

Giant's Causeway. Photo: Don Kinghan

The UNESCO World Heritage Sites included were;

-    Bleanavon Industrial Landscape
-    Dorset and Devon Coast (Jurassic Coast)
-    Giant’s Causeway
-    Ironbridge Gorge
-    Liverpool - Maritime Mercantile City
-    Edinburgh, Old Town
-    Fountains Abbey
-    Blenheim Palace
-    Tower of London

Ironbridge Gorge. Photo: Jaxx Shepherd 

Starting at the Tower of London, the NoHL moved northwards, as natural light faded at the end of the day. Each installation took place as the sun descended below the western horizon, and was captured in these images by members of the Royal Photographic Society.

Dorset and Devon Coast (Jurassic Coast). Photo: Mike Massaro

Following the event, NoHL was named Best Creative Lighting Event at the darc awards 2015, it won Heritage Project of the Year at the Lighting Design Awards 2016 and received a commendation at the Lux Awards 2016. Liz Peck was also named Lux Person of the Year 2015. Citing her ‘enormous contribution to the lighting family and the wider community.’ Liz, Dan Lister, Simon Fisher and Rhiannon West were also awarded the SLL Lighting Award for their contribution to the Lighting Industry and the Society. 

Liverpool - Maritime Mercantile City. Photo: Chris Lowe

Since the original Night of Heritage Light in 2015, there have been two subsequent events in York and Oxford, which included a STEM initiative called Pockets of Light. Pockets of Light involved workshops with local schools, challenging students from different age groups to design a lighting scheme for a well-known landmark in their city. 

Tower of London. Photo: Eddie Bacon

NoHL 2016 was held in association with Illuminating York light festival and in 2017, NoHL was held in association with the Oxford Curiosity Carnival. You can see further details of both of these events here.