Northampton Borough Council
Northampton Borough Council

Published Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Nationally renowned multi-media artist, Jo Fairfax, is working on his latest lighting installation project in Northampton’s historic Market square.

'Square Light' brings art and town regeneration together in a major project for the town that uses state-of-the-art colour change LED lights alongside unique animated projections.

When the project is completed, two historical characters linked to the area, George Bernard Shaw and Francis Crick, will be seen strolling about and waving down to the people of Northampton from the balcony of the former Peacock Hotel - all cleverly projected on to the large windows of the modern Peacock Place shopping centre. The respectable fellows, Shaw and Crick, will also surprise audiences by bursting into modern ballet, the lindy-hop, afro-brazilian capoeira and the tango during the ninety minute film loop.

This second, projection led, phase of the project is currently being directed by Jo Fairfax at Sole Studios, Northampton with dance project co-ordinator, Esther Field.

This element of the Northampton Borough Council project, due to be completed in June, has recently received £60,000 from Arts Council England. West Northamptonshire Development Corporation (WNDC) has invested £330,000 in the whole scheme, turning one of the town's most significant and historic locations into a true focal point, even on the darkest of evenings. Northamptonshire County Council is project managing the installation with contractors, MGWSP and Philips Lite, and has assisted with artistic input and wider cultural planning and coordination of the project.

Phase one, also designed by Jo Fairfax and to be unveiled in May, will see buildings, on all four sides of the market square lit with the latest technologies in computerised, LED lighting. Vertical strip, flood and spot lighting will be mounted on the buildings to emphasize key elements of the beautiful historical architecture, transforming the future of the town centre space. The less dramatic buildings have been given a different treatment to make the facades more interesting - 'sparkles' covered in a leather looking finish, referencing the local leather shoe heritage, will throw light in beautiful star-like shapes on the modern surfaces.

With the quirky and fascinating animations of George Bernard Shaw and Francis Crick alongside the lighting changing colour every hour, the people of Northampton and visitors to the town will come back to the space again and again to see something new every time - no two hours will be the same throughout the whole year.

Jo Fairfax, prominent designer, sculptor, holographer and lighting architect, said: "When I was considering the treatment of the facades it struck me that the buildings' historic features would look stunning when illuminated in a changing but cohesive colour design. The whole market square will be programmed with a seasonal colour palette so special days of the year will be reflected in the lighting scheme.

"For Peacock Place, I had seen a wonderful photograph in the Guildhall of the old Peacock Hotel, a seventeenth century coaching inn that was demolished around 1960. I thought it would be terrific to project this image of the old building onto the new façade - like a ghost of its past - showing the old hotel which was an excellent focal point for speakers to use when they addressed people in the Market Square. Here was the key - an opportunity to connect and interact with the people passing through the square today."

Brian Hoare, leader of Northampton Borough Council, added: "This is an exceptional, one of a kind project and we are privileged that Jo wanted to work with Northampton Borough Council and funding partners to create something special for the people of Northampton. It will be another major cultural attraction for our visitors too - the ongoing enhancements to the market square and the overall regeneration of our town are going from strength to strength and really setting Northampton aside from other towns in our region.

"Once the project is completed I'm sure everyone will come and visit the market square to see what the various lighting effects and characters' dance movements will be, celebrating special anniversaries throughout the year."

Esther Field, the co-ordinator for the dance element of the project, said: "It has been wonderful to help project manage the filming part of the project - finding and instructing the dancers, collating props and costumes and also anything else Jo has asked me to do! I have a background in dance so working in Northampton with such an amazing artist and inspiring individual like Jo has been fantastic. It's a special highlight in my career and I can't wait to see our dancing characters waving to people in the market square."

Also included in the scheme is a 4m by 4m 'screen cluster' on Waterloo House, which will be able to show still images or programmed messages, the alleyways leading into the square will be illuminated with coloured lighting and 15 new lamp columns will also be installed around the edge of the square.

In addition to bringing a dramatic effect to the centre of the town, people will soon feel safe and welcomed within the square at night time and the environmentally sustainable lighting will bring large energy savings, maintenance cost savings and crime reduction.

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