turned off, and people’s own lights stood out as the
main luminaires in the space.
United under the slogan #yourpower, the Earth Hour
seeks to appeal to the power held by the individual’s
actions when turning off lights – a power that for the
event was accentuated by people’s ability to light up
spaces through renewable sources.
Furthermore, the power of the individual was
accentuated by the laser projection of text messages.
People communicated with each other and commented
on the Earth Hour with messages such as, ‘Earth Hour
ROCKS!’ or, ‘Earth is the place where I want my
children to grow up’, or ‘Playful Earth = happy hour’.
Thus, functioning as an enlarged social media screen,
the laser projections allowed for a fleeting moment of
staging the self and connecting to others.
Subsequently, the darker corner of the park
underneath the bridge overpass was used for a light
graffiti workshop organised by Richard E. Taylor. By
taking long-exposure images of people playing with
luminous skipping ropes, hula hoops and lightsabres
in the dark, the luminous movements were etched
into the fabric of the darkened space. The images were
subsequently projected onto a wall, showing off what
people had just taken part in creating. They ranged
from a halo of light embracing a skilful attendant
using luminous skipping ropes, a couple kissing as a
heart was drawn above their heads, or children going
crazy with their lighting toys – creating ludic images of
abstract Pollockesque paintings with light. Similar to
projecting people’s text messages on the landscape, the
chance to create light sculptures in the dark spurred
the engagement of visitors in remaking the way the
space was used and perceived.
The aim of the night was to engage people in playful
activities, enabling them to reconsider the importance
of darkness and different ways to illuminate space, so
some of the issues that were raised were centred on
sustainability, light pollution, safety and access to areas
It is naive to think that the Luminaids, laser
projection and light graffiti will change people’s use
of light in their everyday lives. Solar-powered light
sources are becoming an everyday object in most
people’s homes. Therefore, we are not suggesting that
this event broke ground on solving the problems of
future streetlighting. Yet we hope that, by appealing
to people’s desires to dance, play and move around
a space, rather than to their rational consideration
of the detrimental effects of over-illumination and
energy consumption, that more thoughtful practices
can be developed.
Also, by appealing to those same desires to play, dance,
people in playful activities, enabling
them to reconsider the importance
of darkness and different ways to
engage and create sculptures and images with light
in the night, perhaps those desires can be directed
in ways that are considerate towards the sustainable
future of our cities. We can hope that the memories of
the night will remind people of the broader theme of
sustainability and use of public spaces.
Another issue that was raised by the event relates to
the use of the park at night. While the Olympic Park
is open at all hours, most parks in London are closed
when darkness falls, mainly for safety. Such restrictive
regulation – that appeals to people’s rational assertion
of crime hiding out in the dark, to be alleviated through
illumination, surveillance and closure – was challenged.
The appeal to people’s desire to play and stay in
spaces at night invokes a sense of passive surveillance,
ensuring the comfort of staying out in darkened
spaces in the company of others.
Such alternate means of spatial ordering and
instruction cannot and should not be substitutes for
surveillance systems or streetlighting. But it might
help us think differently about how spaces of fear
and surveillance could be redesigned through appeals
to play and activity. And this is by no means a call
for making the city an elitist playground for the well
educated exercise fanatics of the middle classes. Nor
is it a proposal to create lighting events and spectacles
It is, rather, the hope that by appealing to people’s desires,
we might achieve different ways of commissioning and
designing public spaces for everyday use.
l Playful is the Night is a community project at
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London.
It was commissioned by the London Legacy
Development Corporation and organised by Casper
Laing Ebbensgaard of Queen Mary University
of London, Elettra Bordonaro of the Social Light
Movement, Nevena Kovacevic of Light Follows
Behaviour and Laurent Loyer of Creatmosphere.
Playful is the Night was
conceived to help people
notions of light and darkness