Sarah Haythornthwaite, Programme Director at Peterborough Presents

On Saturday 12th November I witnessed a magical sight as hundreds of hand-made lanterns were paraded through Eye Village as part of Light Up Eye. It was a project we, at Peterborough Presents, delivered in partnership with La Septima and were supported by the wonderful Nene Park Trust staff and volunteers. 

For those of you familiar with all the amazing things that Nene Park Trust does you may not be aware that the Trust also hosts Peterborough Presents, a community-focused arts programme. We work in areas of the city for 2 – 3 years at a time, working with local residents to develop creative projects for local residents. You can find out more about our programme by clicking here.

Light Up Eye was our first project in Eye, also the first rural area we’ve worked in. The project was inspired by the Drakes family who used to decorate their house with hundreds and hundreds of lights to raise money for charity. Keely in our team thinks it was the only other thing that you could see from space, after the Great Wall of China! Drakes Farm was visited by lots of people. We knew we didn’t want to replicate this but the idea of people gathering together in the dark months and bringing a little light into people’s lives was appealing. 

We worked with local residents to go through ideas and La Septima approached us with the idea of a lantern parade. We had no idea how quickly this would grow. Over the Summer and into Autumn we’ve been running lantern making workshops with groups from across the village – with Eye W.I, the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides, The Spinney residential home, Eye Primary school and more. Even the most nervous left feeling astounded by what they had created. Together we made over 150 lanterns of brick works, flowers, planes, rabbits – even a jellyfish. 

On the night of the Light Up Eye, 400+ people lit up the village as they paraded through crowded streets with their lanterns, encountering performances by La Septima along the way. The La Septima performances brought to life stories of Eye they had heard during the workshops - of Jurassic fish the size of a whale, of the brick works and nature reserve. There were performances by Bright Lights amateur dramatics, EAPS and Pig Dyke Molly too. We thought that a few people would turn out to watch but the residents of the village came out in force to watch the parade. It was the residents’ generosity that surprised us the most though. People gave over their houses and garages as performance spaces along the parade. They invited the La Septima crew in for dinner, welcomed them into the local pub. We were loaned ladders, costumes but most of all residents gave their time to making this event happen.  Here’s a quick film of the parade: 

Light Up Eye has been such a lovely introduction to the village. It has shown that people really welcome the opportunity to get creative, especially when they get to have a say in it – and when it brings something to their community too. We’re looking forward to seeing what comes next in Eye – we might need a rest first though!

Photos taken by Dale McKean.