Lighting up Children’s Imagination at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens
Following the success of last year’s inaugural light trail, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens will once again open its gates after dark. The 180-acre arboretum site will be transformed with a series of light art installations by international artists and leading designers. Running from Thursday, November 30, to Sunday, December 31, this luminous spectacle promises to kindle the imagination of visitors.
In a unique collaboration, the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton, renowned as a global leader in photonics, has joined forces with Light Up Trails. As part of their shared vision to raise awareness about photonics among the general public, PhD photonics students from the university will be present at the event to meet visitors and explain the science of light and how it fits into the modern world.
Dr. Pearl John, Public Engagement Leader for the ORC’s Future Photonics Hub, explained: “Photonics is central to our world. It is an enabling technology, from arts and media to manufacturing and engineering, yet we have a skills shortage in that there are not enough physicists and optical engineers coming through even though there are plenty – and some very well-paid – jobs in this field.”
Highlights include the premiere of an exciting new work by The Projection Studio that tells the story of the pine Christmas tree. Another standout installation, Radiant Grove, promises to transport its audience into a realm of vividly coloured laser beams, mirrors, and pulsating rave dance music.
Pearl said: “The light art looks amazing, and the creativity involved in making it is rightly recognised. Without the science, the physics, and optical engineering, it might never be able to leave the artist’s imagination.”
Recognising the importance of inspiring the next generation, she adds, “So, having scientists at arts events such as Light Up Trails is really important to us. We want to engage with young people who are yet to even recognise the science in what they’re seeing.”
Beyond the light trail itself, Light Up Trails has extended its impact by partnering with the University of Southampton’s Light Express Roadshow. This student-led initiative will visit a local school in December, offering additional insights that promise to enhance the overall enjoyment and educational value of the light trail.