Son et Lumiere 1958
We’ve talked about son et lumiere shows before – Greenwich was the first British place to host such an event – in 1957. An idea born in France in 1952, it’s still a really popular summer thing to do across the channel; even in more northern (and therefore British-weather-ish) places like Amiens, where they have the most amazing light show over the cathedral entrance, showing the carved stone statues as they would have looked in medieval times. But over here, they tend to be sporadic events if they happen at all.
We had one a couple of years ago, and it was brilliant – with the light show projected off the Queen’s House:
and I really hoped that it would be the start of a new interest, but nothing else has happened since. Fireworks, nice though they are, are not the same. And if they come with music, they never seem to be connected with it – the bangs come at all the wrong moments.
I came across this old brochure for the 1958 Son et Lumiere, the year after the triumphant first British outing, which implies that they were hoping it would become an annual event. Charles Laughton is back on narration duty and the London Philharmonic is doing the strings thing again. Even the script is much the same – the history of Greenwich, with marching Romans, ravishing Danes and taxing Normans – it’s just expanded.
It cost a fairly hefty 5/- to get in, and I can’t help thinking it must have been hard to keep the local urchins from climbing railings etc. and get a free view, but it must have been quite a show. I wonder if anyone took any pictures?
Technology has advanced so far now that we are used to seeing mega-screens and outdoor cinema. But son et lumiere is different. It’s a piece of created, site-specific art, and I think it’s not been yet been exhausted as a form.
I guess in these days of cuts it’s not something we’re likely to see again soon, even in this year of all manner of celebration, but I rather wish someone would give Greenwich son et lumiere another run for its money.
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