Eindhoven isn’t exactly on top of many tourist itineraries and, despite having a couple of truly excellent museums, there are few compelling reasons to make the trek here. It doesn’t have much in the way of a well preserved medieval centre like many Dutch towns, and if you want to see canals lined with glorious Dutch Golden Age buildings, you’ll definitely be disappointed. Eindhoven is no Amsterdam.
Once a year, however, Eindhoven puts on a must see event, the GLOW Light Festival. The town is the birthplace of electronics giant Philips, it was here that they developed their lighting business manufacturing lamps and light bulbs. Today, Philips is the largest manufacturer of lighting in the world. Although they no longer have their headquarters in Eindhoven, this heritage lives on in the GLOW Light Festival, of which they are one of the founders.
The festival commissions artists from around the world to build some magnificent light sculptures and installations in multiple locations across Eindhoven. We went to it last year and loved it. This year was GLOW’s tenth anniversary and we managed to visit on the one night of the week-long festival when it wasn’t raining – the weather is one of the hazards of hosting an outdoor event during the Dutch winter.
The festival follows a route through Eindhoven, with light installations transforming public spaces around the town. Whole buildings, including the modern city hall and the ancient church, Sint Catharinakerk, become canvases for light projections. This year the 3D projection on Sint Catharinakerk was themed around the weird and wonderful work of Hieronymus Bosch, in celebration of the 500th anniversary of his death. It was spectacular.
Other highlights of the tour included three giant inflatable ‘light people’ perched precariously on the top and side of an office building, called Fantastic Planet; the Tunnel of Light in the centre of town; the Axioma projection on the city hall; and the ‘Knock Your Socks Off’ projection on another building.
There were 29 exhibits on two distinct but connected routes, in total the route was around 7.5km and on a cold night we were thankful for the regularly positioned gluhwein stalls. While the Science Route was predominantly Dutch artists and (presumably) scientists; the City Route brought Dutch artists together with others from a variety of countries including Australia, France, Spain, Germany and Finland.
Last year over 700,000 people visited GLOW. If our experience trying to get a hotel room on the opening night is anything to go by, even with the bad weather this year will be even more popular. Deservedly so, it is a fabulous event to illuminate the dark winter nights of northern Europe.
It’s not all light and fun however. One of the installations that made a big impression, were 500 items of children’s clothing with names on illuminated by unltraviolet light. These represented the one child a week that has died from abuse in the Netherlands over the last decade. We hadn’t realised this until a volunteer saw us looking at it and came over to explain.