As ‘light bulb moments’ go, Light Up Trails couldn’t have been any more literal. A flash of inspiration illuminated the way ahead for lifelong friends and light artists Libby Battaglia and Lucinda Croft.
It brought them to Christmas At Cowdray, a mile-long festive promenade that is set to shine new light on the historic country estate in the heart of the South Downs National Park this Christmas. A series of large-scale light art installations inspired by the theme of ‘Joy’, it’s the spirit of Christmas in light.
“Christmas At Cowdray is a magical, brand-new experience for all the family,” says Libby, artistic director of Light Up Trails, the company behind Christmas At Cowdray.
“After the difficult times we all experienced last year this exciting event will be like getting the Christmas we love back again,” adds co-director Lucinda. “We’re aiming to put the ‘Joy’ back into Christmas for all of us!”
Although they’ve known each other since school and trained professionally as dancers, Libby and Lucinda pursued separate and individual careers for years until a shared passion for all things creative resulted in a new collaboration inspired by a festival Libby created in 2018.
“I was enthused by the possibilities of what could be achieved with light art after visiting a festival called Light Up Poole,” explains Lucinda. “The way that people responded to the installations and the sense of wonder as they made their way between the pieces was absolutely inspiring.
“I was so proud of Libby and what she had achieved, and I wanted more people to have the opportunity to experience the magic of a light trail.”
Blazing a trail
With funding from Arts Council England to explore ways of making light trails work, the idea developed into a company called Light Up Trails. Its first venture – at Wiston Estate in nearby Pulborough, West Sussex – attracted some 25,000 visitors last Christmas and this year’s Christmas at Cowdray installation is set to be even bigger and better.
“There’s something elemental about a light in the darkness that draws us to it,” says Libby. “On a dark night, the presence of light brings us together and makes us feel closer and in the hands of artists that becomes a wondrous thing, showing us the way and reflecting our feelings and emotions.”
The venture consolidates more than 30 years of designing and delivering high-profile artistic events around the world. Libby has worked as a commercial dancer, West End choreographer and international event producer (she worked on the Jubilee Family Festival in Hyde Park) and Lucinda was managing director of Dragons of Walton Street, the bespoke children’s furniture makers founded by her late mother that counts royalty and celebrities from around the world as clients. Lucinda managed the company through the recession, developed international trade partners and eventually sold the business.
United by their shared vision of bringing the work of a close band of light artists to a more diverse audience, Libby and Lucinda have thrown themselves into the project determined to make it a success in spite of the difficulties that have arisen over the last year.
As Lucinda says: “We work with some amazingly creative and incredibly industrious people, from our production designer James Smith and brilliant artists such as The Projection Studio, to the expert technical crew and our amazing support team. It is a real privilege to work with these people and the events of the last year have only served to bond us even closer.
“Ultimately, we are all working together to create wonderful memories that last a lifetime.”
Find out more about Christmas at Cowdray here.