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Two Brussels light festivals to chase the winter blues

10:41 03/02/2020

In the dead of winter, Brussels puts on two light festivals on consecutive weekends to chase the gloom away - Citizen Lights in Schaerbeek (7-8 February) and Bright Brussels (13-16 February).

Be they living tableaux, dance, interactive sculptures or performance art, there are 11 light-based creations by Belgian and international artists to enjoy at Citizen Lights, in Schaerbeek's Louis Bertrand neighbourhood.

Among the 11 there is the Standing Men, life-size interior-lit human shapes which, if you lend an ear, will whisper their dreams to you. Pyronix is a dynamic pyrotechnic combination of lights and fire and A Star Odyssey is a videomapping spectacle on Saint-Servais church. Inside is an innocent looking cabin, but do you dare to go inside? Written In Weightlessness features a quote from Nietzsche and beckons towards adventure.

Each night, a parade, the product of a collaboration between local residents and artists, will start at the Brusilia Tower and make its way to Place Colignon. Lasting 45 minutes, the parade is set to dazzle spectators with a colour and light-filled series of magical images.

The products of two workshops are the parade opener's superb papier-mâché characters, created by local schoolchildren, and along the parade and illuminations routes the 150 stained glass lanterns that light the way, produced by people of all ages.

To keep you full of energy as you take in the light installations and the parade, there are three food truck/bar areas and nine local bars and restaurants will be offering specials for the evening.

Then, starting on 13 February for four days, it's Bright Brussels, Festival of Lights 2020. Last year the festival attracted more than 200,000 spectators and so this year the programme is ambitious, with a new route of some 20 monumental luminous installations taking over several of Brussels’ emblematic sites from Sainte-Catherine to the Halle Gate with the Grand-Place, Poelaert, the Marolles, the Sablon and the Royal Quarter in between.

Belgian, Dutch, French, Swiss and even Colombian artists will be outdoing themselves to wow the spectators. This year, the route has been designed to intersect with public transport hubs as much as possible. The programme has also been developed to introduce new pedestrian routes and modes of active transport.

Several free guided visits will be on offer during the festival. Visitors will roam the above-listed neighbourhoods accompanied by a professional guide and will learn more about the various luminous installations and the locations (in English, French and Dutch). And for the first time, the festival will kick off with a luminous bicycle parade, with hundreds of participants organised in collaboration with Pro Velo.

Among the installations, Bruegel will be saluted with a detailed projection on the Halle Gate while in Halle Park the Oogas will make you believe that comic books have come to life when they react to your movements.

Above the Boulevard de Waterloo, the Loves in Cages are delicately suspended for your strolling pleasure. 1.3 Seconds is the time it takes for light to go from the Earth to the moon and the installation bearing this name offers a physical exploration of the links between light, time and space. And Contemplation will reveal Notre-Dame du Sablon as you have never imagined it to be, with a polychromatic architectural illumination process entitled Chromolith.

At the Place d’Espagne, hundreds of paper lanterns will beckon you for a drink and a bit of dancing. And on Saturday only, until 23.00 (last ticket sales at 22.00) you will be able to climb to the top of the Halle Gate for one of the most beautiful night-time panoramas in the city. Wearing virtual reality glasses you will see the same view as it was in the 16th century. To catch your breath on the way down, stop in and try a new beer, Piet den Drol, brewed for the occasion.

Citizen Lights, 7-8 February, 18.00-22.00, parade starts at 20.45
Bright Brussels, 13-16 February, 19.00-23.00

Written by Richard Harris