Two of Edinburgh’s main public spaces are to be turned into peaceful “chill out” spaces to herald the arrival of spring – following criticism they have been exploited for commercial uses and festival shows.
St Andrew Square and The Mound precinct will be transformed into “zen-like portals of tranquillity” for several weeks, complete with soothing music, light installations and animated images of the Aurora Borealis.
The free “Edinburgh Lumen” event, which is being funded to the tune of £80,000 by the city council, will also deploy a little-used lane beside the Assembly Rooms and Jamie Oliver’s Edinburgh restaurant.
It has been announced months after concerns from heritage bodies about the “creeping privatisation” of public areas for events and warnings that over-commercialisation was threatening the city’s authenticity.
City leaders said the new event, which will be launched just before Valentine’s Day and run for five hours each evening, is aimed at “celebrating the city in a more peaceful and reflective mood”.
The project, which the Edinburgh-based firm NL Productions is creating for the city, has been announced in the wake of the success of previous light installations staged in St Andrew Square since 2014.
They include Key Frames, which brought stop motion “stick figures” to the square, the Edinburgh International Festival curtain-raiser Bloom last summer, and Georgian Shadows, which saw key landmarks lit up to mark the New Town’s 250th anniversary.
Donald Wilson, culture convenor at the city council, said: “Edinburgh Lumen is our most ambitious light display yet. As the home of art and culture all year round, these unique pieces of public art have been specially designed for the landscape and for the people of Edinburgh to enjoy.
“They promise to adorn the city centre with a constellation of lights to guide us into spring and I’m sure they will draw an impressive footfall.”
Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “We support Edinburgh Lumen because it will hopefully encourage residents to explore the city during a quiet time of year and prompt a fresh look at our incredible historic environment.
“Sometimes we can take buildings and places we pass everyday for granted – creative activities such as this can help us better appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.”