Lighting the Way: The Algarve’s light festival

Lighting the Way: The Algarve’s light festival

By: Ana Tavares

Photo: Jorge Leal/LUZA

The light of Loulé shone brightly during LUZA – the first light festival in the Algarve

The first Algarve International Festival of Light (LUZA) may have slipped under the local media radar but, after welcoming about 30,000 visitors, the event – organised by the studio of renowned artist and Algarve resident Beau McClellan and the Matosinhos events’ company Eventors Lab – will surely become a regular feature in the region’s calendar.

Organised in Loulé during the low season, between November 24 and 26, 2017, LUZA was the brainchild of Ana Fernandes, from Eventors Lab, who dreamed of creating a lights’ fair. When she contacted the Conrad Algarve hotel, at Quinta do Lago, she was told it would be impossible to organise something like that in the Algarve without first speaking to Beau McClellan. After all, the prominent Scottish lighting designer has works in some of the world’s most  distinguished hotels, as well as having received accolades at countless speciality fairs and four Red Dot design awards.

Sitting in the sleek living room of his studio, ByBeau, founded in 2014 in the centre of Loulé, the designer says he loved the idea and forming a partnership was an obvious thing to do: “I was in charge of curating the festival and was able to be one of the artists, while Ana took care of management and logistics,” he says. “It was our first project together but it went very well, although it was a lot more work than we expected,” he reveals.

The festival was organised with the full support of Loulé Council – highly praised by the designer – and was co-financed by the 365 Algarve/Turismo de Portugal programme. With a tight budget and little time (the project did not go ahead until the application to 365 Algarve was assured), ByBeau and Eventors Lab had to make use of all their expertise to bring LUZA to life. “I had to call in a lot of favours,” Beau reveals, laughing.

In the end, it all paid off. Based on the idea that “Portugal has the best natural light in the world”, the event assembled an enviable group of emerging national and prestigious international artists. It included video mapping shows, several lighting installations, a torchlight parade (with over 100 people), a conference and even the presentation of a Christmas tree, created by the ByBeau studio in homage to the victims of the forest fires that devastated Portugal in 2017.

Portuguese artists such as the collective Grandpa’s Lab (Pedro Castro, Rafael Pinto and Tiago Pires) and Boris Chimp 504 (Miguel Neto and Rodrigo Carvalho), along with international players such as Neil Musson and Jono Retallick, Felipe Mejías and Kasjo Studio, created a truly interactive event that captured the attention of tourists and locals, “aged from three to 60”, as Beau points out.

“It was not an overly-elitist contemporary art event,” stresses Beau. “People may not have understood the concept behind the pieces, but they still had fun.” And so it was… from selfies taken next to the lighting features, to full audiences in the video mapping and sand animation shows, or the queues to see ByBeau’s installation with 600 Dimple units – a product that has already become the Scottish designer’s calling card. What seemed to be an abstract event turned out to be a festival full of light and smiles.

In the curator’s opinion, the least successful activity at the festival was the LUZA Lab, which aimed to showcase projects by new Portuguese artists working in the lighting industry. “We promoted it to the universities but never heard back. We want to keep this idea in the future, perhaps with a new approach.”

With Loulé Council’s approval to hold the festival annually, ByBeau and Eventors Lab are already working on the second LUZA event, and Beau has a clear idea of what he wants to improve: “We want to find sponsors, and perhaps an app that guides people through the installations,” he reveals. “I would like to convince restaurants to have a bigger gastronomic programme, to find a place for an after-party, have more music, a VJ and street entertainment. Something that Loulé lacks is a boutique hotel, because there is a market for it now. Housing the artists away from Loulé kills the idea they need to get to know the city and the people.”

For Beau, it was the light of Loulé that shone the brightest throughout the festival: “I think we can be proud of living in a country that organises events like this: it was something for, and by, the community and everyone was there to help.”

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