Dazzling light installations created by students and graduates of the University of Plymouth will be showcased this week when the third annual Illuminate festival opens at the Royal William Yard and other venues across the city.

Students from media arts and digital design have contributed a number of artistic and creative pieces to the festival, which signifies the launch of the year-long programme of events to commemorate Mayflower 400, both here and in the United States. There will also be work exhibited from graduate Eliza Newman, and the event itself is co-organised by Professor Chris Bennewith, Head of the School of Art, Design and Architecture.

“Illuminate is one of the signature events of Mayflower 400 and now a key date in Plymouth’s calendar.” 

said Prof Bennewith, who previously helped create Wellington’s famous LUX Light Festival. 

“The city has really embraced it and it’s proven to be a perfect avenue through which young talent, including students from the University and Plymouth College of Art, can showcase their work.”
Illuminate will once again be centred upon the Royal William Yard, with projection mapping, interactive pieces and playful light art installations, as well as a host of food and drink attractions. For the first time, however, the festival has grown beyond its traditional venue, with additional installations at the Barbican and Mount Edgcumbe Country Park.

Spanish artist Xavi Bové will headline the 2019 festival with his piece ‘Tree of Memory’, a projection mapping installation that will transform the front of Mills Bakery. French creative Thomas Voillaume is also one of the major contributors, following up his eight-metre video mapped sculpture ‘Human’ from 2018 with another humanoid installation, ‘DIVA’.

Adrian Vinken OBE, Chair of Mayflower 400 and Destination Plymouth, and an Honorary Doctor of Arts at the University, said: 

“Growing on the back of previous years’ festivals, Illuminate has become a real highlight in Plymouth’s annual events calendar. It’s such a special event and we’re thrilled that this year it will act as the opening moment of the Mayflower 400 commemorations, not just in Plymouth but across the whole country.”
Illuminate – led by a partnership of the University, the Real Ideas Organisation, Plymouth College of Art, and Urban Splash – runs from Thursday 28 November until Sunday 1 December. It is free to enter, and for more information about the programme, artists and opportunities to get involved, visit

“The biggest success has been the way that the city has embraced the festival. There is a real sense of building social capital here, and people saying ‘this is ours; we have it, it’s not Exeter’s or Bristol’s. It’s about civic pride.” 

Chris Bennewith, Head of School of Art, Design and Architecture, festival steering group member and part of the internationally renowned art and design collective working with light – Squidsoup.

Professor Chris Bennewith
Media arts mind the pigeons

Forward-thinking, creative, and innovative – a place to nurture your talent

Our School of Art, Design and Architecture offers high-quality, student-centred degrees, postgraduate programmes and research opportunities focused on adaptability and relevance to today’s cultural industries.

Discover what you could study with us