Spectra Festival 2017!

Well February doesn't disappoint that's for sure. The annual Spectra Festival rolled out the neon carpets, ignited the fires and switched on the fluorescent bulbs but there was one huge problem. Rain, sleet and snow all fell over the course of the Spectra weekend, not unusual weather for the time of year but certainly a huge factor for an almost entirely outdoor based festival. And yet 63,000 people braved the elements over the course of the weekend to witness the weird and the wonderful light installations which went from Marischal College to the rooftop garden above the St Nicholas centre, into the St Nicholas kirk yard, Seventeen on Belmont street and culminating in a series of works in Union Terrace gardens.

The aim of the festival is to provide some relief from the winter blues by showcasing a selection of light based art works and events which take the viewer on a short journey across the city centre. Incredibly with a very short window the organisers managed to bring together a great blend of creative and artistic works with more publicly engaging pieces like the face mapping stand where you could have your face mapped onto the screens and watch as it recounted tales of old. The fire pit heads made for a photographers dream while the illuminated spiders in St Nicks churchyard were the perfect blend of creepy and cool! The 'Cloud' proved popular with everyone, I was barely able to get close enough for a snap but, there was something serenely beautiful about it and the engagement it created with the audience.

Marischal College was the final destination of the night and provided 3 different attractions. Firstly viewers could take control of special Laser Light Synths which allowed you to control lights on the façade of the building with giant touch pad controllers. We watched on as kids and adults battled it out to be the next synthwave superstar. Inside the quad you could find screens showcasing the Secret Cities Aberdeen photo project. Incredible snaps of various Aberdeen landmarks were displayed showing unique vantage points like the roof of Kings College in Old Aberdeen to the bell tower at the Court House. We had fun trying to figure out where each snap was taken and picked up one of the free newspapers showcasing all the snaps and locations, a nice keepsake for the evening.

A personal favourite for myself was the projection mapping on the quad tower at Marischal College. Watching the tower morph into a medieval story book where strange creatures from the Bestiary come alive and traverse the building before being engulfed in flames and revealing ye olde scholars and wise men was fantastic. The gothic imagery perfectly suited the location and I think provided a real highlight and nice way to finish the tour off.

Due to having a limited amount of time and the fact it was freezing we didn't make it around all of the displays but thanks to the power of instagram we were able to see all the great work being created by Stack Collective on the roof top garden. The group is made up from art school graduates and current students and have put together a series of workshops, not just for Spectra Festival but also for the Inspiration Point events which have been happening across the city (more on that later). Illuminated laser etched panels popped up each day as children were invited to draw out their own designs and characters which were then turned into light artworks, a pretty cool idea which I'm sure led to lots of happy faces.

One of the key aspects of Spectra is the audience taking the time to engage with the works and the best evidence of this can found on instagram. I've used a few of them to showcase a flavour of what we saw and despite sub zero temperatures and sleet people seemed to be happy going around each site, ticking off the attractions as they go. There's a lot that can be said for these kind of events and not all good but for me they serve a vital purpose of bringing people together in our cities spaces and getting them engaged with creativity. It might not be the most challenging of work to appreciate but that doesn't mean its any less valuable, if anything it might inspire someone to make that first trip to an art gallery and that's always a good thing. Well done team Spectra and all involved!

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