Turning cities into magical playgrounds

Turning cities into magical playgrounds

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There are few more concrete examples of the longtime rift between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland than the walled city on the River Foyle.
Its official name, and the name used by most residents of the UK, is Londonderry. But Irish nationalists and Catholics call it simply Derry.

The city was a flashpoint for the violent conflict between unionists and nationalists that swept Ireland from the 1960s through the 1990s. Its Catholic and Protestant children attend segregated schools. Even today it’s not uncommon for road signs pointing motorists to Londonderry to have the “London” blacked out by graffiti.

This weekend, however, Derry-Londonderry plays host to an event its organizers hope can help unite this divided city, at least for a few days. Called Lumiere, it’s a four-day festival expected to attract tens of thousands of spectators to see the city’s historic cathedrals, walls, bridges and squares illuminated by splashes of light. Projects range from LED and neon sculptures to large-scale projections by leading artists and lighting designers from Ireland and beyond.

“It (the city) has been a contested space for a very long time. And we’re going there in the hope that … maybe people who haven’t felt comfortable standing next to each other in the streets will find an opportunity to do that,” said Helen Marriage, co-director of Artichoke, a London-based company that stages large-scale public events across the UK.

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