The Arts Insider: February '16


Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." Never have these words from Martin Luther King felt truer than in today’s world. Light is absolutely key, not just to art, but to the human spirit. Matisse once said that he expressed himself as an artist through light. For Egon Schiele, the body burnt with it. Indeed, the composer Schumann told us that an artist’s mission is to send light into the human heart.

So be inspired by e-Luminate, an art festival which sees the city transformed by light like no other time of the year. With extraordinary large-scale light installations sweeping through Cambridge, all it takes is a few minutes of walking around the city centre to see our iconic architecture flooded with light and colour, with pop-up workshops and events showcasing light and technology for all ages, from 12 to 17 February.


This Image:  E-Luminate returns for 2016, picture by Max Read

Not just a festival with a pretty face, e-Luminate will also shine a spotlight on other cutting-edge technology, like the brilliant wizardry of Cleantech. Aside from being one of the ingredients of our city’s much hyped success ("Britain’s most successful city" - The Economist), Cleantech is helping us all save energy and build a cleaner world, including within the light and solar sectors.

Roughly 4000 businesses from in and around the city are involved with Cambridge Cleantech, which is located at one of the city’s flagships for social enterprise, the Future Business Centre in Kings Hedges, in a beautiful building also home to innovative public art curated by Acuity Arts (who I met in the autumn at the Cambridge City Art Fair). For e-Luminate, get your smartphones ready to hunt for a Trail of Light that includes a trail of contemporary ‘smart’ beacons that glow as you near them. Inspired by Cambridge’s iconic Richardson Candles, the beacons are a fabulous reinvention of this historical lamp, designed by senior lighting designer Francesco Anselmo at Arup. Visit for more information.


This Image: Susie Olczak's projection onto King's College, image by Bennett

As for love, well there’s no getting away from Valentine’s Day, whether you love it or would frankly rather have it annihilated.

So why not go a bit wild and turn your loved one’s body into a canvas by commissioning a tattoo for them this Valentine’s? Or have matching tattoos created? I was recently wowed by the work of artist Steve Tucker, studio manager for Almost Angels Tattoo Family in Ely, who are offering Valentine’s vouchers for your beaus as prezzies – so pop in and have the perfect tattoo designed if you're that way inclined. (I’ve got two tattoos, each one telling its own story, and I don’t regret getting either in the slightest).

"Tattoos are a wonderful art piece to commission, and hugely popular – our artists have a range of styles to suit," says Almost Angels’ Faye Peters. Visit for more.

Being given a unique art piece, or having one created for your loved ones, is a treasure indeed. I recently fell for a heart-emblazoned urban art piece, Smell The Flowers, by Cambridge-based artist and designer Karen Stamper (aka Kaz the Artist), recently exhibited as part of Pivotal, a festival exploring climate change through art (this is not a massive hint to anyone at all, honest). Karen’s distinctive work, marked with a signature style that mixes pop, guerilla and urban styles is available from Storm Fine Arts,


This Image: The Flowers by Kaz the Artist (Karen Stamper)

Meanwhile, children will be delighted this month by the illustrations of Cambridge resident Joy Sutherland, in a series of books by Rachel Braddock published by Bold Beasts ( Available in Heffers Children’s Bookshop, the stories - Ariadne Armadillo, Henrietta Hen, Catullus the Caterpillar, Esquire the Squirrel and more - are full of charming illustrations by one of the city's best-loved artists (Joy helped run playgroups in Cambridge back in the 1980s and is well remembered by many!).

Finally, all you lovers can head to a vaudevillian-style burlesque extravaganza: Neon Moon’s Valentine’s Masquerade Ball on 13 February, held in the heart of the city at the Cambridge Union Society (check for further details). Also, watch out for Neon Moon’s explosive, light-fuelled production exploring the role that electricity has played in live performance throughout the 20th and 21st century - the Electric Rodeo Circus - due to go on tour later this year around the east of England in country mansions, restoration theatres and other fascinating spots.

I spent the afternoon writing about poet Emily Dickinson before their sneak preview at Cambridge Junction last month (dousing all attendees with a champagne reception at four in the afternoon – decadent!), which was iridescent with audiovisuals and technology, sumptuous performance, circus and illusion – a diamond in the making. Emily once said "to find that phosphorescence, that light within - that’s the genius behind poetry". You could say the same, not just of poetry, but of so much performance and art-making, really. It’s just finding those cracks to let the light in.

Have a fabulous February, all.


This Image: The Neon Moon is back with a Valentine's Masquerade Ball