GLOW, a festival of light in the Dutch winter

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

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.

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

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.

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

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.

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

GLOW Light Festival, Eindhoven, Netherlands

All aGLOW in Eindhoven

There seems to be a plethora of events and festivals in the Netherlands at this time of year, something to cheer the heart during dark, cold and wet days. Unfortunately, many of them take place outside, making timing very important. We waited all week for an evening that promised reasonable weather before getting the train to Eindhoven for the 10th Annual International Light Art Festival, GLOW.

Lightbulbs, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Lightbulbs, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Lightbulbs, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Lightbulbs, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Lightbulbs, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Lightbulbs, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Apparently everyone else in the Netherlands had been waiting for a break in the weather as well. There were thousands of people following the route around Eindhoven. At times it was a little overwhelming, but there is something very pleasing about a festival of light during the darkness of a northern European winter.

It’s no surprise that there should be a festival dedicated to light in Eindhoven, this is after all the birthplace of Philips, which made its name producing light bulbs. The light bulb installation at the GLOW festival is a nod to Eindhoven’s heritage.

GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Wave, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Wave, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

A woman hula hoops, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

A woman hula hoops, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

A woman hula hoops, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

A woman hula hoops, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Day of the Dead projection, GLOW Festival

Day of the Dead projection, GLOW Festival

Arriving at Eindhoven station it wasn’t obvious where we needed to go – a peculiarity of Dutch society is to organise really interesting things and then assume everyone knows how all it works. We followed the crowd, not so difficult to work out, then we found there was an official direction in which you had to see the installations…but only after we’d seen half of them travelling in the wrong direction. Oh well!

GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

The Cathedral, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

The Cathedral, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

The Cathedral, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

The Cathedral, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Fire Tornado, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Fire Tornado, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Fire Tornado, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Fire Tornado, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

The installations were great, varying from a field of dandelions made from plastic water bottles, to a wave reflected in a canal, to films being projected onto houses. Not every installation was of electric light though, one spectacular artwork was called the Fire Tornado, which was essentially a man-made tornado of fire. You could smell the gasoline long before seeing the flames.

Light Study, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Light Study, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Big Brother, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Big Brother, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Dandelions. GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Dandelions. GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Dandelions. GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Dandelions. GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Big light globe, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Big light globe, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

There was a great projection of Day of the Dead skulls onto the side of an apartment block; a giant globe with light projections inside it sat in the middle of a square; a beautifully illuminated avenue of trees in a park, called The Cathedral. It was all quite magical, especially if you could pretend the other 20,000 people weren’t there.

Projection on a house, GLOW Festival

Projection on a house, GLOW Festival

Projection on a house, GLOW Festival

Projection on a house, GLOW Festival

Projection on a house, GLOW Festival

Projection on a house, GLOW Festival

Projection on a house, GLOW Festival

Projection on a house, GLOW Festival

It took us a good couple of hours to walk the route, luckily there are food stalls at intervals, some selling Glühwein – the first of the season. We’d have stayed longer but it takes an hour and a half to get back to The Hague from Eindhoven and it was already 10.30pm. We made one final diversion to the cathedral which we were promised was a finale worth witnessing.

Il Giardino Incantato, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Il Giardino Incantato, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Il Giardino Incantato, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Il Giardino Incantato, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Il Giardino Incantato, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Il Giardino Incantato, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Il Giardino Incantato, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

Il Giardino Incantato, GLOW Festival, Eindhoven

We had to wait for the next ‘showing’ but the 3D projection onto the front of the cathedral was definitely worth the wait.  We bought €1 3D glasses and waited. Suddenly the cathedral was exploding with colour and movement, it seemed to deconstruct itself and then rebuild itself piece by piece. Basically the best €1 I think I’ve ever spent – 2D photos don’t do it justice.

3D projection on Eindhoven Cathedral, GLOW Festival

3D projection on Eindhoven Cathedral, GLOW Festival

3D projection on Eindhoven Cathedral, GLOW Festival

3D projection on Eindhoven Cathedral, GLOW Festival

3D projection on Eindhoven Cathedral, GLOW Festival

3D projection on Eindhoven Cathedral, GLOW Festival