LONDON • London's iconic Westminster Abbey was lit up like multi-coloured confectionary and a giant flame loomed over the capital's premier shopping street as part of the city's first festival of light.
Crowds flocked to see dazzling sculptures puncturing the cold winter night, including ghostly fish swooping through the air in Piccadilly and an enormous animated elephant near Regent Street's upmarket shops. "It's contemporary culture which engages the emotions rather than the cerebral, that is designed for a mass audience to share public space," said Ms Helen Marriage of Artichoke, a charity that works with artists to create large-scale, popular events.
Organisers of "Lumiere London" - a venture backed by Mayor Boris Johnson - described as the biggest light festival to hit the capital, and its 30 works were distributed among some of the city's most famous landmarks. The spectacle has its origins in Durham, in Britain's north-east, where it has been held every two years since 2009.
The festival was a boon for London tourism, adding to its cultural draw, and shops and restaurants near the installations stayed open later to cash in.
"Culture is to London what the sun is to Spain. It's a major driver for our tourism," said Ms Munira Mirza, the London mayor's director of arts and culture. A million visitors were expected during the festival's four days, timed to boost tourism during the capital's quietest weekend, Ms Mirza said.
Underscoring the scale of the event, central London's Piccadilly Circus was closed to traffic for only the third time in the last 100 years. The free festival ran until yesterday.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE