Autumn in England Gets a Glow Up
September 2023: As the nights draw in, England offers plenty of ways to brighten up the season, from Diwali festivities and fireworks bonanzas to illuminated trails and Dark Skies Festivals. Here, VisitEngland shines a light on some of the must-visit autumn evening experiences across the country.
ILLUMINATIONS AND LIGHT FESTIVALS
Blackpool sets the North-West alight with Illuminations, Lightpool Festival & World Fireworks Championship (FREE)
Various dates until 1 January 2024
From September to January, Blackpool’s iconic illuminations return to darken the winter months. This year’s display includes three new installations, the 26-metre-wide “Lollies In Love With Light” from renowned artist Dr Chila Kumari Singh Burman, MBE; another by Canadian-born Bruce Alfred, who specialises in Native American art; and a new version of Spitfire Island which has been reimagined by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen using 3D printed technology. During October half-term (20 – 28 October) visitors can enjoy an additional free programme of light installations, 3D projection shows, art trails and live performances at the award-winning Lightpool Festival. The event includes world premieres and installations never before seen in the UK, from a Butterfly Ball with silent disco at the Winter Gardens to Carnival Magic at The Blackpool Tower Ballroom. For a visit with a bang, don’t miss the World Fireworks Championship at the Tower Festival Headland on 30 September and 20 October.
River of Light - United by Light, Liverpool (FREE)
27 October – 5 November 2023
Liverpool's River of Light festival returns in 2023 with the theme "United By Light," inspired by the city's Eurovision hosting success and bringing together works from some of the most innovative global light artists. Event highlights will include "Emergence" by This is Loop, a mesmerizing pavilion of mirrors and more than 10,000 LED lights; "Lampshades Bouquet" by TILT, featuring interactive giant lamp art; and "Elysian" and "Elysian Arcs" by Atelier Sisu, inflatable creations with interactive light and sound experiences that encourage people to find joy in the everyday. The event is one of the UK’s largest free city centre events with visitors able to enjoy the installations as part of a 2km walking trail around Liverpool waterfront.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway Light Spectacular, Pickering, Yorkshire
27 October – 5 November and 10 – 12 November 2023
This train journey with a difference is an immersive audio and visual experience that sees visitors hop on board a steam train illuminated with 17,000 LEDs. Passengers are provided with flashing wristbands which synchronise with an on-board lightshow and music on an hour-long round-trip between Pickering and Levisham station.
Lumiere, County Durham (FREE)
16 – 19 November 2023
The UK's biennial light art event, Lumiere, will once again illuminate the streets of Durham this November, transforming the city with over 35 light installations brightening up buildings, streets, and waterways. Among the five internationally acclaimed artists participating in the event will be Ai Weiwei, a contemporary artist who emerged as a vital instigator in Chinese cultural development. Lumiere, which began in 2009, has drawn more than one million visitors and is known for its free captivating displays of light art.
RHS Gardens Glow, Across Five Gardens Nationwide
Selected dates between 15 November – 2 January 2024
Enchanting illuminations return to RHS Gardens Bridgewater, Harlow Carr, Hyde Hall, Rosemoor and Wisley this winter, offering seasonal walks with a difference to after-dark visitors. Working with lighting experts SLX on reimagined routes, each garden will offer a different experience; from dancing to Manchester anthems on a rainbow light dancefloor at RHS Bridgewater to new mirror balls on the lake at RHS Hyde Hall and magicians, live music and light performers at RHS Rosemoor.
Northumberland International Dark Sky Park 10th anniversary
September 2023 – March 2024 2023 marks 10 years since Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water & Forest Park became recognised as England’s first international Dark Sky Park and the largest of its kind in Europe. The anniversary will be celebrated during the autumn and winter months from September 2023 to March 2024. On 14 October, Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre presents an expert-guided immersive star-gazing experience, whilst Kielder Observatory and Battlesteads Observatory host regular fun-filled dark sky discovery events from late night astronomy sessions to aurora hunting www.visitnorthumberland.com/explore/destinations/darkskies
Scilly Dark Skies Week, Isles of Scilly
30 September – 6 October 2023
The Scilly Dark Skies Week will celebrate the grassroots of astronomy with talks from world-class astrophotography practitioners and astronomers followed by stargazing through telescopes at the most unpolluted night skies in the UK. By day, festival goers can attend hands-on workshops to build practical astronomy skills and knowledge from photographing the universe to exploring the ancient connection between Scilly’s earth and sky.
Exmoor’s Dark Skies Festival 2023, West Somerset and North Devon
13 – 29 October 2023
Exmoor’s Dark Skies Festival 2023 will offer star-themed activities across the National Park including dusk wildlife safaris, yoga under the stars and e-bike night rides. The festival features around 60 events for families, amateur astronomers and everyone who feels inspired by the outdoors and the night.
North Pennines Stargazing Festival, Cumbria, Durham and Northumberland
20 October – 5 November 2023
With its 16 Dark Skies discovery sites, the North Pennines is the second largest designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England. For 2023, the North Pennines Stargazing Festival will host stargazing suppers, talks, tours and wildlife spotting. There will also be a two-night Star Camp weekend27 – 29 October) at Doe Park Caravan Site in Teesdale which includes a mulled wine reception, astronomy-themed talks, solar observing and a bottle rocket competition.
North York Moors National Park Dark Skies Fringe Festival, North Yorkshire
27 October – 5 November 2023
With some of the darkest skies in the UK, the North York Moors is an International Dark Sky Reserve. The 10-day North York Moors Dark Skies Fringe Festival will host a number of activities including ‘stay and gaze’ packages to spend a night under the stars, night walks and guided stargazing, as well as daytime adventures and crafts such as bat-box making.
Cumbria Dark Skies Festival, Lake District
28 October – 18 November 2023
This annual festival in the wilds of Cumbria’s Lake District offers a range of events celebrating the night sky. As well as attending expert-guided astronomy sessions and live folk music performances in the forest, festival-goers can take on adventure activities such as dark sky canoeing and open water star gazing swims. There are also dark sky culinary experiences available such as a star gazing bushcraft cookery lesson and a dinner and spoon whittling workshop.
Diwali Mela in Wolverhampton, West Midlands (FREE)
14 October 2023
Wolverhampton will be celebrating Diwali with a free family-friendly event at Phoenix Park. Following the switch on of the city’s lights at 8pm, a spectacular fireworks display will mark the ‘Festival of Light’.
Diwali Mela Southampton, Hampshire (FREE)
15 October 2023
Diwali Mela Southampton is a family-friendly event offering a cultural programme including the traditional performance of the Ramayana, live Bollywood songs and a colourful fashion show. A number of food stalls will serve popular Indian snacks, alongside traditional Indian dresses, handicraft and henna stalls.
Leicester's 2023 Diwali Celebrations, Leicestershire (FREE)
9 – 24 October 2023
Leicester‘s city-wide celebration of Diwali is one of the biggest outside of India. Running for a fortnight, celebrations kick off on 9 October with the city’s famous lights switch-on and culminate on 24 October with entertainment in Diwali Village, including a giant illuminated puppet parading through the crowds and a fireworks display. This year Leicester’s Wheel of Light returns. The 110-foot high, fully accessible Ferris wheel will be located on Belgrave Road.
Diwali On Trafalgar Square 2023, London (FREE)
29 October 2023
Diwali on the Square offers a special moment to recall the inspiring story of Rama and Sita while celebrating London’s diversity. There will be food stalls offering traditional and fusion Indian cuisine and activities including yoga and meditation, sari and turban tying workshops and Soho Theatre Comedy performances plus henna and face painting. Visitors to the free celebration can also learn one of Southeast Asia’s most popular dance forms with a professional Garba performance group demonstrating the steps and encouraging attendees to join in. The children’s zone will offer short interactive retellings of the Ramayan with opportunities to take pictures with the dress up crew, as well as a chance to create and design their own Diwali candle light.
Diwali: Shine Your Light at the National Maritime Museum, London (FREE)
11 November 2023
In partnership with COMMONGROUND&, a South Asian arts collective based in London, the National Maritime Museum hosts an annual family-friendly Diwali celebration, featuring free live music, workshops, art displays and light shows.
Diwali at Marble Hill, London (FREE)
11 November 2023
At Marble Hill Park in the southwest London borough of Richmond, English Heritage will once again host a free evening celebrating the Festival of Lights. Visitors can expect illuminations, dancers, Dhol Drummers, giant puppets and more.
Diwali Festival at the Oriental Museum, Durham
14 November 2023
Celebrate the Hindu festival of lights with this special late-night opening at Durham University’s Oriental Museum. This community-led event will feature traditional puja prayers to the goddess Lakshmi, Indian food and games. Visitors can also look forward to arts and crafts activities for all ages and a fun retelling of the story of Prince Rama and Princess Sita from the Indian epic poem the Ramayana. The Museum will be decorated with diyas, flowers and lanterns made by the community.
Diwali & Tihar Celebrations at York St John University, North Yorkshire (FREE)
18 November 2023
York St John University and the York Indian Cultural Association invite all to celebrate Diwali on campus with a free, ticketed event. The evening will begin with the lighting of lights, followed by a religious ceremony led by the local Sikh and Hindu communities. There will also be an Indian meal served and a traditional celebration.
FIREWORKS AND BONFIRE NIGHT
Chatsworth Bonfire and Fireworks, Derbyshire
27 – 28 October 2023
Get ahead with your Bonfire Night celebrations to the backdrop of Chatsworth House and its 105-acre garden. Visitors can enjoy a roaring bonfire, spectacular fireworks displays, music, entertainment and winter warmer food and drink, as well as the chance to sample a two-course seasonal menu in the Cavendish restaurant.
Ally Pally celebrates 150 years of lighting up London
3 – 4 November 2023
Alexandra Palace will light up the skies this November in one of the country’s biggest firework and bonfire displays. Forming part of its 150th anniversary celebrations, the Fireworks Festival will also include DJs, music, street food, drag shows, a fun fair, ice skating and the UK’s largest German Bier Festival – all spread out across the Park and Palace’s 196 acres. The Palace has been hosting spectacular displays since the late nineteenth century making it an iconic spot to continue the tradition.
Low noise fireworks at Old Down Country Park, Bristol
3 – 5 November 2023
Enjoy the oohs and aahs without the big bangs at this family-friendly event near Bristol. As well as a 12-minute low noise fireworks display, there will be a blazing bonfire and a selection of food and drink stalls.
Notes to editors:
- For more ideas check out the following VisitEngland article:
- VisitEngland’s comprehensive What’s New in England 2023 overview can be downloaded here. Password is England2023.
For more detail and to receive our latest What’s New and What’s On in 2023 press materials please contact the VisitEngland PR team:
Louise Ferrall / Josie Self