Light festivals are beginning to gain ground in the national artistic and tourism scenario. While LUMINA Cascais may be the best known in Portugal up to date due to its affluence and sheer scale, we should not overlook the current mushrooming of small light events all over the country and the presence of other international festivals that are already recognized: Aura in Sintra, and Luza in Loulé.
These are programmes that require rigorous preparation, with a major curatorial component, both in terms of sites in the city and previously unseen pieces. Manuel Garcia-Ruiz, a doctoral student at CIES-IUL in Sociology, investigates these festivals as instruments for the cultural and territorial development of Portuguese secondary cities (medium and small) through the production of a highly competitive and specialized creative tourism.
More than just a moment of night-time conviviality, sociability among young people, families and tourists, these festivals try to highlight a less explored cultural side of the cities and the arts. Their specificity, the creation of interactive spaces with the public, the choice of artistic pieces and the assembly of the circuit for visitors all builds on the accumulated efforts of teams and the actual municipalities themselves.
In Europe, these festivals date back to the 17th century, beginning at the oldest festival 'Fête des Lumières' in Lyon, France, born of religious practices. Other outstanding events include the Dutch Glow Festival in Eindhoven, one of the largest in Europe, or the Signal Festival in Prague, one of the most innovative, as well as the Bella Skyway in Torun, Poland, with Portuguese curatorship.
And, according to the researcher, 'perhaps due attention and recognition has not been to the status gained by these festivals in Portugal. The LUMINA team co-founded and is part of one of the biggest networks of this kind of events in the world.' It was also considered by The Guardian as one of the 10 best light festivals in Europe, consolidating its position within the international artistic circuit, placing the town of Cascais as an important reference in light-art in the European panorama.
More than entertainment or an event to attract tourists, the light festivals bring together a cultural and artistic aspect, important to the local economy and with great potential for the development of cities at various levels. According to Manuel Garcia-Ruiz, 'these are spaces for tourism and leisure, but also for the promotion of cultural literacy, and for the territories themselves, as well as being spaces and moments of interaction for young people and families.'
It is increasingly imperative to obtain scientific results on the extent of the impact and involvement of these cultural events in order to improve funding sources, enhance their benefits and gain space on the agenda of the cities concerned.