The free citywide arts festival is back on Friday 18 May with special commissions, shows galore and a kickass after-party

LightNight is everything a city centre arts festival should be: founded with honest intentions, expanding year on year while maintaining its inclusive spirit, completely free whilst offering access to otherwise inadmissible venues and concluding in a kickass after-party (at Constellations).

Transformation is the theme. Expect to ponder your own and Liverpool’s transformations: be provoked, inspired and entertained by world class performers and be enchanted by this wonderful city as it metamorphoses from day into night, hosting over 100 diverse events for all ages on Friday 18 May

Liverpool broadly takes place in the five ‘zones’: Hope Street Quarter, St George’s Quarter, City Centre, Baltic Triangle and Waterfront (which, with Riba North, Open Eye Gallery, Tate, British Music Experience and the Maritime Museum, might usurp Hope Street as the place with the biggest crowds). 

Traveling around in vintage style on a heritage circular bus service is made possible thanks to Merseyside Transport Trust, familiar to every scouser above a certain age. Indulge your nostalgia in the distinctive green buses, as they circuit all five zones throughout the night. 

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LightNight features 100 free events across the city

Street food hubs, otherwise known as LightNight Bites, will be hosting some of Liverpool’s liveliest vendors. Take time out and absorb the onslaught of culture whilst sipping a Love Lane pale ale from festival partner H1780, the Baltic Triangle-based distillery and brewer, and grab a bite at the Baltic Market (open as usual) or the Bombed Out Church (St Luke’s). Here will be a Prosecco & Champagne Bar and traders such as Kwok Wing Food, Perfect Samosa and Homebaked

LightNight comes courtesy OpenCulture; three extremely awesome, tireless young women who formed a social enterprise in 2010 to make more art accessible to more people and keep it flowing through the city. Their events include the annual Summer and Winter Arts Markets and the Rock n Roll Marathon, while projects span street pianos in Liverpool ONE to Uncover Liverpool; a website which allows artists to promote their work and the public to find related events and opportunities. 

Undoubtedly their flagship, however, is LightNight (which also forms part of the nationwide Museums at Night). The eventful evening lets tourists and locals alike see Liverpool quite literally in a new light with a potent combination of thoughtful, entertaining and moving works in iconic and everyday locations - many specially commissioned. 

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'There’s more to do than can possibly be achieved in one night'

There are also a myriad of workshops and ways for visitors to contribute to the art itself; from making a fifteen-metre paper bridge on the Waterfront to reenacting the Battle of Actium at the Victoria Gallery & Museum and making social justice posters for the 1911 party @ Dorothy in the Baltic Triangle. 

With Liverpool’s major arts, cultural and educational institution all involved - as well as independent galleries, shops and individual artists - there’s more to do than can possibly be achieved in one night. Many people therefore make a beeline to the usually private spaces; expect Liverpool Medical Institution, Sensor City (including roof terrace) and the likes of the LJMU buildings to be rammed. 

Overlapping performances take place amongst and around installations - some with BSL, interpretation and other access requirements - so we recommend planning accordingly and using the handy itinerary builder on the website. Too difficult to decide? Just walking around means you will bump into the ‘streets’ element: regular performances of carnivalesque shows, physical theatre, street poetry, sound, lights and two roaming dung beetles (random, we know) chatting about history from ancient to modern times. 

However you choose to experience LightNight, an illuminating evening is guaranteed. 

LightNight takes place citywide on Friday 18 May, 5pm-late. All events are free of charge 

Lindsey Bennett:

"I’m excited to finally be one of the 50+ yellow and pink t-shirt clad volunteers this year, after seven years of somehow missing the chance. Maybe I won’t get to dash around the city like a culture maniac myself, but I’ll help guide visitors around the different zones, take crucial participant feedback and hopefully shift some delightful merch’ that helps raise funds to keep this vital, vibrant festival going. So please do buy a programme or take 90 seconds to answer some simple questions about what you’ve seen and hope to see on the night."