UK’s World Heritage Sites seen in a new light

The ‘Night of Heritage Light’ took place on the first night of October when nine of the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites were illuminated in recognition of the UNESCO International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015).

The initiative illustrated the synergy between science and culture, using modern lighting technology to highlight some of the UK’s best loved sites of cultural heritage.

IYL 2015 is a global initiative adopted by the United Nations to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.

The idea for a Year of Light was inspired by a number of significant scientific anniversaries this year relating to light: from the 1,000th anniversary of the publication of Islamic scholar Ibn Al-Haytham’s early works on optics, to the 50th anniversary of Charles Kao’s transmission of light in optical fibres which made the internet possible.

Dr. Beth Taylor, Chair of the UK Committee for the International Year of Light and Vice-Chair of the UKNC, said:

“The Year of Light is a lot more than just a celebration of past achievements, however significant.  It has brought together a uniquely wide range of different communities, connecting the world of science and technology with the world of the arts, culture and design. The International Year is helping to highlight the role of light  across every area of UNESCO’s mandate – in education, science, culture and communication”.

The Night of Heritage Light was organised by the Society of Light and Lighting, a worldwide authority on lighting and its applications.

The bright idea for Night of Heritage Light came about when SLL President Liz Peck met with Northwest and Regional Directors Rhiannon West and Dan Lister, to discuss how the Society could celebrate IYL 2015.

“Many ideas were tabled,” said Liz Peck, “eventually the theme of lighting UNESCO World Heritage Sites developed into the Society’s Night of Heritage Light. The event highlighted the experience of the Society’s Lighting Design Members and brought further recognition to these amazing places”.

Design teams worked hand-in-hand with conservation teams at each of the sites, in order to showcase the historical and cultural significance of these important venues in a new light. Those sites which already had sophisticated lighting systems in place received additional installations, while other sites were lit up for the first time.

Brendan Keely, Secretary of the SLL told the UKNC:

“It was decided that we would focus on sites that had either not been lit before or parts of sites that have not been lit. All sites are different and posed their own challenges such as remote access or coastal sites exposed to the elements. The enthusiasm we experienced from the UNESCO Site teams inspired our members to deliver the best schemes possible and it was a fantastic night!”

Nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites took part in the event. Eleanor Killough from Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland, told the UKNC:

“We were delighted to host this special evening of luminosity and be a part of this magical event”.