This August will see Hadrian’s Wall lit up by LEDs inside a series of tethered balloons as part of the London 2012 festival. The installation, designed by New York based artists YesYesNo, will illuminate the length of the wall. It has been designed to be viewed remotely using digital media, making it a world-wide celebration.
But this won’t be the first time that Hadrian’s Wall has taken part in a spectacular lightshow. Back in March 2010, 500-volunteers lit gas-powered beacons 250-metres apart along the wall to celebrate the 1600th anniversary of Roman rule. And whilst these lamps may have produced lots of light and heat for the watching crowd, they were certainly not as environmentally friendly as LEDs.
Back in the days of the Roman occupation of Britain when Hadrian’s Wall was built, it would have been lit by flaming torches made from pitch-soaked rags. Time consuming to produce and strong smelling, pitch was an unreliable form of lighting, so what would the Romans have made of LED lighting? They’d be amazed at how many uses LEDs have, their long-lasting quality and the way they can produce any colour of light. Who knows what uses they could have found for LEDs? Headlights for chariots perhaps? Maybe lines of lights on their chariots? Or scaring off Barbarians with brightly coloured flashes of light sent from the Gods?
Lighting structures and buildings for celebrations is a growing trend as many cities hold their own festivals of light. Ghent in Belgium hosts a four-day celebration of light to brighten up the winter evenings. In 2011, the city’s Belfort Street was lit by 55,000 LED bulbs, and the 28-meter high entrance to the Cathedral used LEDs to lead crowds to a corridor of light. As well as bringing light to the people’s lives, the idea was to draw attention to the benefits of LED lighting in reducing energy consumption.
And last Christmas, Toronto in Canada participated in the Cavalcade of Lights festival. Attractions included a 45-foot high sculptural tree containing 52,000 LED lights, a 30-foot high blue coloured LED lit Christmas tree with red LED leaves, and garlands made from Incandescent bulbs.
The illumination of Hadrian’s Wall for London 2012 promises to be an innovative and eye-catching display of the versatility of LEDs. Not only can these clever little lights reduce our electricity bills and carbon footprints, they can give an ancient fortress a modern twist we can all enjoy.