SPECTRA, Aberdeen’s Festival of Light has been a signature event on the Council’s event and cultural calendar since 2014.
The vision for SPECTRA was to be a signature winter event for the region and beyond, a high-end forum with which the city can profile itself distinctively in the area of light and creativity, recognising Aberdeen as a contemporary city of design and technology with a strong cultural heritage.
Piloting in February 2014 with an array of light installations, exhibitions and events in Aberdeen City Centre, it was experienced by 17,000 people and included school and community participation with a series of installations and projections by local, national and international artists. The festival was well received it provided an excellent platform to showcase the city’s unique qualities and cultural offerings.
The 2015 festival saw a change of model, with the festival moving to a single site in Union Terrace Gardens. This proved very popular with attendees but meant a reduction in estimated reach across the city. SPECTRA 2015 presented a very different experience which was successful and popular with festival attendees. The engagement projects in schools and community groups retained the festival accessibility and buy-in from communities out with the city centre.
Building upon the success of the 2015 model, SPECTRA 2016 organically grew to cover 3 main sites across the city – Union Terrace Gardens, Marischal College and St Nicholas’ Kirkyard. Fringe activity at Seventeen, the city’s creative hub, and The Anatomy Rooms helped Spectra deliver it’s biggest and best event to date. Over 20 installations lit up the city across the 4 day event and 35,000 people took in the festival.
2017 saw a significant rise in attendance this year – with visitor numbers reaching 63,286. That is nearly double the attendance of 2016 and SPECTRA has grown to become Aberdeen’s leading cultural festival. The festival also received prestigious industry recognition through The Drum Scottish Events Awards when it won Festival of the Year against stiff competition.
Following the success of 2017, SPECTRA returned to the city in February 2018 with the theme of ‘Play the Night’ – exploring innovation, creativity and the benefits of play to kick-off the national Year of Young People. The award-winning festival drew over 91,000 visits to over 30 installations across three stunning sites in the city, smashing the record number of visitors to the 2017 festival.
In addition to the presentation of international works, SPECTRA 2018 aims to support and commission emerging young artists from Aberdeen to collaborate and develop new work with international partners.