The Northern Lights Installation returns to York Minster and is dazzling guests once again!

By Jonathan Reed

29 October 2019

Standing by itself, the Gothic Nave of York Minster is a wonder to behold. For centuries it has captivated all those who have stood beneath its holy splendour. Its towering columns, white intricate ceiling and medieval stain-glass windows are utterly jaw-dropping. Yet tonight, on a cold October evening, this architectural gem has been transformed.

In place of the ancient ceiling, stars glisten and shimmer. The West Window is bathed in lights of deep blue and purple. The nave itself is alive with the excited buzz of a full house of spectators all waiting for a showstopping evening, which for half-an-hour is set to transform York Minster into a cacophony of visuals and sounds like never before.

The Northern Lights Installation is a breath-taking amalgamation of projections and atmospheric music inspired by the many stained-glass windows the Minster boasts. Designed by artists Ross Ashton and Karen Monid from double Guinness World Record holding company The Projection Studio, Northern Lights re-ignites the stories within York Minster.

From the fiery tempests of dragons to the ethereal heights of the Aurora Borealis, the thirty-minute projection show is deeply compelling from beginning to end. Amongst a crowd of hundreds, you are left feeling singular, as if you are standing alone with the towering nave surrounding you. It is highly effective in absorbing you into the atmosphere of the Minster and its story.

The installation is returning to York after a highly successful inaugural run last year. With such huge demand, organisers decided to illuminate the nave once again and all for the cause of preservation.

The funds raised by the event will contribute to the cathedral’s £11 million, 20-year campaign to ensure that all 128 of the mostly stained-glass windows will have protection from the elements. Considering that York Minster has more medieval stained-glass in situ than any other single building in the country, it is vital work that is expected to take place.

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Neil Sanderson, Director of the York Minster Fund (YMF) said: “Currently around 55% of these works of art have no protection from the elements, leaving them exposed to centuries of corrosion and decay caused by moisture and the environment.

“The Northern Lights events will not only allow people to see and interact with the Minster in a different way, but also support our campaign to ensure these historically important masterpieces are protected for generations to come.”

The YMF have already secured an endowment grant of up to £1 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), which ensures that every £1 donated by the public will be matched by the YMF and the NLHF up to the maximum total of £1 million.

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The 20-year project was launched in 2017 and has led to the Minster partnering with York Glaziers Trust, Britain’s oldest and largest specialist stained-glass conservation studio. The installation itself has continued the theme of reaching out to the local community with experts from the University of York and Durham University collaborating with the spectacular projection show.

Having experienced the Northern Lights Installation for ourselves, against the backdrop of the Minster’s gothic and awe-inspiring grandeur this wonderful evening is a unique testament to the partnership between modern technology and ancient heritage. It submerges you fully into the cultures of faith, history and community whilst spellbinding your senses.

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But if you wish to experience the Northern Lights event then you must be quick. Tickets sell out extremely quick, and with the exhibition enlightening the minster until 31 October there is only a limited time to see it. You can book online at: https://yorkminster.org/whats-on/event/northern-lights/ or if any tickets remain available you can pay on the door. Pre-booked tickets are £6, on-the-door tickets £8.

There are two showings each night at 7pm and 9pm and although photography is allowed inside the venue, we would strongly advise against using a flash as it can hinder the projection’s effectiveness.

So, as Halloween approaches and the ghostly tours solemnly and spookily traverse through the intricate streets of York, there is always another option to step away from the phantoms and immerse yourselves in the majesty of York Minster in a way you never thought possible. We guarantee you won’t regret it.