City of Lights: Truro’s midwinter lantern festival

PUBLISHED: 12:12 12 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:45 12 November 2018

Truro City of Lights 2016

Truro City of Lights 2016


Now in its 22nd year, the magical parade of lanterns will fill Truro’s streets on 21 November

Cornwall has many wow factors: the beaches, the dramatic cliffs, the sunsets over the Atlantic – not to mention the artwork, wildlife, architecture, gardens and, well, you get the idea.

And this month’s wow comes encased in paper and filled with light on the streets of our capital city for one night only. The City of Lights parade, will take place on 21 November when Truro will see around 700 lanterns of all shapes and sizes head through the centre of the city in front of a crowd of 30,000 people who come from all over the world to see one of the biggest parades of its kind.

‘When City of Lights started we wanted to create the possibility of a new tradition for Truro,’ explains its artistic director Tony Crosby who has been with the festival since it began.

For many of us it is the giant lanterns that we remember most of all: and these, along with others lanterns are created along a different theme each year.

Truro City of Lights 2016Truro City of Lights 2016

City of Lights aims to simulate the artists’ imaginations each year with a good theme and this year the theme is Remember. 

‘We like to keep our lanterns a secret for the night. One of the key elements that keeps City of Lights fresh every year is that we put a bunch of artists in a secret workshop with materials. Ideas are grown and shared, lantern sculptures created and the artists always come up with the unexpected. This year they have a chance to excel themselves with a theme that can go in many directions. Perhaps this is another year to expect the unexpected!’

The event has gotten more and more popular every year, with more people wanting to get involved. But that success comes at a cost. And that cost has increased as the event has gotten bigger – there is a lot of health and safety involved, as well as the cost of creating the lanterns themselves.

Just a £2 donation from everyone who attends would cover the cost of the event and help towards the following year,’ explain organisers.

Truro City of Lights 2016Truro City of Lights 2016

The work to create this night goes on throughout the year with around 300 volunteers involved – around half of those on the night as stewards and the celebrated ‘bucketeers’ who raise money on the night. Other volunteers will be involved in workshops with schools and community groups who have been busy creating their lanterns over the last month. 

Behind the scenes a small team – of mostly volunteers – work tirelessly throughout the year to bring this us one magical night and its wings have slowly spread throughout the community which art residencies and other events planned throughout 2018.

‘Every time it captures me,’ says the event’s marketing coordinator Charlotte Davis reflecting the feeling most visitors experience at the spectacle. ‘I get a lump in my throat and the hair raises in the back of my neck.’

And while the simplicity of the lanterns – created from paper and glue – remains the main appeal, the organisers are also looking at how to use new technologies to keep refreshing the event.

Truro City of Lights 2016Truro City of Lights 2016

In 2014, the organisers had digital installations around the town to commemorate the anniversary of World War I. But people didn’t make the connection between the two elements.’

‘Imagine the number of lanterns made over the years: many thousands by the children and more than two hundred by the artists,’ says Tony of the past 21 years. ‘That is quite a spectacle in anyone’s eyes. A lot of stories told and inspiration shared, everyone will remember their favourite lantern. But none of this happens without a remarkable and dedicated team who work tirelessly across the year to make this all happen and for Truro to shine.

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