The Stars Come Out At Night In Teesside With Nightfall #AD

8 Dec 2019

You know when you've got something in your diary that's months away, but you're so ridiculously excited about it and you kind of feel a bit of adrenaline when you think about it? Well, that might just be me, but it's exactly how I felt about Nightfall 2019 - the light and art trail event that took Preston Park Museum and Grounds by storm! You might remember that I did a little preview post at the start of October, but I've finally been along and experienced the event, so I figured that I should tell you all about it.

If you missed my original preview post, let me tell you all about Nightfall and the brilliant minds behind it, Stellar Projects. The lovely ladies that brought this 'stellar project' to Teesside are Rachel and Lyndsey, who are also the duo behind Make & Mend, which I went along to in the summer. As both of them are crafty and creative, I just knew that we'd be in for a treat with this unique take on a Christmas event.

They said, "Nightfall is Teesside’s new light festival which is set to become an exciting addition to the region’s cultural calendar. The event aims to bring people together to experience the magic of illuminated artworks and performance after dark. [It will] aim to transform people’s perception of a familiar space and create a shared night-time experience, where people can come together, be inspired and enjoy the wonder of the moon." In a nut shell, the event was designed like a trail, where you would walk around the park and discover new pieces of glowing artwork!

Not only did it promise to be a magical experience and a brilliant opportunity to see the beautiful Preston Park at night, it also incorporated artwork from local creatives. You all know how much I love the sort of art and cultural revolution that Teesside is going through at the minute, so it was amazing to know that the area was being represented amongst the other incredible pieces.
The theme for Nightfall was the 50th anniversary of the lunar landings, so my best friend and I were expecting to see lots of moon and star-themed pieces around the park, and we definitely weren't disappointed!

There are a few key areas of Preston Park that I think every Stockton-dweller will know - the bird cage, the walk along the river, the Victorian street and the walled garden - and every single one of these was transformed into a work of art that shone and twinkled against the night sky. It kicked off with Kaleidoscope - a flurry of hundreds of butterflies inside the bird cage, that reflected warm light and danced in the breeze - then progressing along the river with works like Ursula Lassos The Moon (a 3D, spinning moon, tethered by a lasso to the ground), Crater Stories (orbs of light in the trees that recited untold stories about the moon) and Arbour (an ethereal colonnade of light strips that transformed the wooded climb to the Victorian street).

In total, there were 17 installations to see, some of which previously commissioned for others arts and culture projects, such as Enchanted Parks, but some were brand new for Nightfall. However, there was one installation that has garnered worldwide fame and was definitely the piece de resistance of the event for me.
I remember seeing photos of Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram ages ago and thinking 'holy moly, that looks beautiful', but it wasn't something that I thought I'd ever get to see. It was one of those Instagram-only art pieces that you see in photos, but never get to see in real life. Well, Stellar Projects totally pulled it out of the bag and brought the moon to our little corner of the North East! Just check out the beauty in the photo above!

If you're not familiar with the installation, Museum of the Moon is a giant inflated sphere at around 7 metres in diameter. It's lit from within by a projection of 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. "At an approximate scale of 1:500,000, each centimetre of the internally lit spherical sculpture represents 5km of the moon’s surface", so as you can imagine, it truly is a sight to behold. Photos definitely don't do it justice, but the face just looked so crisp and detailed, almost like you could reach out and feel every single crater and bump under your finger.

This installation was part of the finale area on the trail and was hung beautifully at the end of the Victorian street, so it illuminated the cobbles and the painted advertising on the side of the shops. The whole setting was so magical and breathtaking! I felt incredibly lucky to have seen it up close and in the flesh. This is a piece of art that has travelled all across the globe, so to say that it's been exhibited in Stockton-on-Tees is just wild!
Not only were there out-of-this-world art installations, but there was also interactive storytelling, live music and workshops that were perfect for the whole family. We fell in love with Whippet Up, who put on a reenactment of the lunar landing, complete with a scaled replica of the space shuttle, created from NASA's blueprints! They were quickly joined by Phoenix Voices, who I've seen at events all over the region, including Festival of Thrift's opening parade, so there was even more local pride to be had.

We didn't catch any of the other storytelling unfortunately, but I know that Curious Arts were there with another brilliant child-orientated drag show and Ian Douglas was sharing his folk tales. As for the workshops, these were definitely aimed more at the littles, but there was plenty for them to get stuck into, like engraving glass lanterns, creating moon characters from recycled materials and making 'man on the moon' mini lights.

Now, our time slot was at 6:30, and it took us about two hours to walk around the whole park, stopping at the Walled Garden right before we left, as this was pretty much the final point. In here were tipis and four food trucks. Unfortunately, the taco truck was shut and there was only one type of mac and cheese left. The other two trucks were for hot drinks and crepes, but as we were hungry for 'proper' food, we felt a bit disappointed. This was our only negative point though, so in future, I'm hoping that Stellar Projects organise a few more food options to make sure that there's enough for the 4000 people capacity!
My best pal and I came away from Nightfall feeling super happy. It had been such a magical evening and we'd both had so much fun. The event was a fantastic way to explore the grounds, especially for my friend who had never actually been to Preston Park. He was particularly impressed with the Victorian street, so if there's anyone new to the area that's reading this, go along to the park and grounds, even if it's just to see that!

For me, as someone who grew up in Stockton, and visited the park and museum on the reg, it was so unbelievable to see the place transformed in such a magical way. I don't think I've ever been there in the crisp, cold night, so that was one thing, but seeing it at night with all of the beautiful lights was a totally different thing. It was just completely stunning and it was definitely something that you absolutely had to see with your own eyes. Photos just don't do it justice!

Overall, the event was as brilliant as I had expected it to be. As I mentioned, the only change I would make is the food situation, but apart from that, I was totally in love with everything. I've got everything crossed that Nightfall makes a return in the future, so I'm going to be keeping my eyes peeled on Stellar Projects' Facebook for any updates!


This post was sponsored by Stellar Projects. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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