The chilly walk into Lisburn City centre always feels different in the winter. Despite Covid restrictions, this year is no exception. The Light Festival is in full swing.
Once again, the city is hosting a number of outdoor exhibits which are sure to spread Christmas joy. Just outside the Linen Hall, young children squeal with excitement as the opening chords of Let It Go begin to ring through the streets. The source of the music is a tall enchanted Christmas tree which puts on a colourful light show every hour. To the left, older kids play a game of tag around a group of large, futuristic light prisms that light up the night. Tired parents stand back, coffee in hand. They’re keeping an eye on the little ones, hoping this outing will tire them out enough to go to sleep as soon as they get home. All the same, they’re thankful for the excuse to leave their isolation bubbles.
Looking around at the smiles of socially distanced crowds, it’s easy to forget the looming cloud of Covid-19. Around the corner, in Lisburn Square, a tunnel of lights draws couples and groups of friends with phones at the ready. Photoshoots are taking place at every turn as they wait for just the right colour scheme to appear around them. Queues have built up around sets of glowing angel wings in Market Square and Bow Street. Parents can be seen trying to get their children to stand still long enough for them to capture some Christmas memories in lieu of Santa’s Grotto visits which won’t take place this year.
The highlight of the trail is definitely the Light Canopy. Large sheets of bright fairy lights stretch out across the rooftops of Bow Street, creating starry skies above large crowds that line the street every hour for a musical light show. Their energy is welcomed on an otherwise quiet street. Although they remain empty of customers, almost every shop on the high street remains open for collection. The city is refusing to buckle under the restrictions.
As Christmas classics ring out, interspersed between popular songs like Uptown Funk and Sandstorm by Darude, faces light up. Looking around the socially distant crowd it is clear that they are grateful to see some light in what has been a dark year.
Amy Murray is a QUB Music Graduate and current Journalism MA student at Ulster Univeristy. She has a passion for Cultural, Social and Solutions Journalism. She represented Northern Ireland at the British Council’s Future News Worldwide Conference in 2019.