Real Ideas, the team behind Plymouth’s Ocean Studios and Market Hall, and partners have just revealed the artists and installations for the highly anticipated return of the re-imagined Illuminate. In light of the climate emergency and the pandemic, the re-imagined Illuminate occupies a smaller footprint and lasts for two weeks, giving audiences the chance to calmly experience magical light installations and participate in an inspiring range of talks, workshops, film showings and live music

Responding to the COP26 summit, climate crisis and the impact of Covid-19 on the cultural sector, the Real Ideas team have worked with a diverse group of local and national artists alongside scientists, data experts, activists, architects, technologists and environmental experts to create the Illuminate 2021 programme.    

Climate Crimes by Micheala French at the Market Hall immersive dome.

Across Illuminate, visitors will have the chance to visit Ocean Studios and Market Hall to experience not just the light installations on show, but also an inspiring range of talks, workshops, film showings and performances covering everything from comedy to a picnic in a virtual park. Tickets for general admission and the wide range of workshops and unique Illuminate experiences exploring the key themes of sustainability and connection are available now.

Each night projections will fill the Ocean Studios courtyard, an amazing ‘hidden’ gem of space in the Royal William Yard. Over in the impressive Market Hall, in the immersive dome, you can experience 280 degrees of visuals and surround sound audio (it’s a chance to have a VR experience without the headset, this is the only dome of its kind outside North America). Real Ideas will be showcasing work and opportunities that all respond to the key themes of sustainability and connection between the spaces.

SOLA by Squidsoup

In the Ocean Studios courtyard, internationally renowned art collective Illumaphonium will showcase its namesake piece: a dynamic and interactive, multi-sensory music making installation that is the first-of-its-kind. Created by musician and inventor Michael Davis, the semi-acoustic, semi-automatic, multi-player musical sculpture stands over three and a half metres tall and consists of more than a hundred illuminated chime bars. Each of the bars respond to touch, with ever changing patterns of light and sound, spreading out like waves over the giant instruments surface, bringing people together into a fun and spontaneous music making experience.

The adjoining Factory Cooperage ‘shed’ will play host to Squidsoup’s ‘SOLA’ a project sponsored by Hyundai. At one level a testament to the pure joy of feeling the sun’s rays on your body, SOLA is a monumental wall of artificial sunlight to brighten your day. It is a reminder of the summer sun, warmth and joy that lie ahead.  Yet this sun is not quite real, and shadows are not exactly as expected. Distortions and haloes of orange and blue appear, creating intriguing forms and light interplay. The result is an escapist immersive atmosphere where nothing is quite as it seems – surreal, oddly reassuring, reminiscent of science fiction scenarios, yet highly ephemeral.

Also in the Ocean Studios Courtyard, visual 3D artist and musician Florian Guibert will transform the Factory Cooperage into an alternative future as he asks viewers; “Is redevelopment and repurposing buildings always the answer and what would happen if we returned buildings to nature?”  A beautiful animation will invite visitors to watch rewilding happening before their eyes – trees growing, wildflowers blooming, the building gradually crumbling, all allowing the surrounding viewers an opportunity to reimagine what spaces could look like if they were left for 50-100 years.

Meanwhile at the centre of the stunningly renovated Market Hall, those visiting any events or showings at the immersive dome can also experience another dramatic Squidsoup piece. Entitled Submergence, this artwork will provide a large, immersive experience via many thousands of individual points of suspended light to create feelings of presence and movement within physical space. Shown in over 70 spaces and events on six continents, Submergence moves through several movements, creating a semi-linear 12-minute piece. In its entirety, an abstract narrative is formed with a gradual increase in tension, building to a final climax.

Also, within Market Hall, in the Real Ideas impressive immersive dome, a collaboration between Art and Energy and Real Ideas will see the compelling Moths to a Flame project return from COP26 in Glasgow, to a new level. Open to everyone, attendees can create and design their very own moth on paper, and then digitally render and set it free to fly inside the gargantuan digital dome environment. The unique, individual moths created by visitors will join others to create a breath-taking immersive experience that celebrates the vital role moths play in our eco-system.

A series of vibrant and thought-provoking film screenings and related talks will see everyone from Michela French, the creator of Climate Crimes, leading a screening and discussion on the relationship between climate change and human migration, to leaders from Surfers Against Sewage, Cornwall Climate, and Blue Marine Foundation coming together to discuss what we can do to protect our sea life.

Real Ideas’ CEO, Lindsey Hall says; “Plymouth is a city of incredibly talented makers who are rapidly growing our vibrant cultural, immersive and digital sectors. Illuminate is now a much anticipated, major event and like other global cities, we aim to provide wonderfully vibrant and engaging immersive experiences for our Plymouth and South West citizens to enjoy, especially at this darker time of year.”

Light Organ by Simon Honywill

Lindsey continues, “We have used the unintended break caused by Covid to reflect on feedback from previous Illuminates and make changes. We listened when people told us very big crowds prevented people spending as much time as they wished enjoying installations and that there wasn’t enough for children to do. We are also very aware how much has changed since the last Illuminate in 2019, the increased focus on climate change and the need for us all to come together and act. In this context, we are very excited to bring a re-imagined Illuminate back to the city, with an extended, two-week programme that gives us all more opportunity to reflect on the amazing world we live in and what we, as citizens can do to safeguard and support the planet. Today we are announcing our established artists and collaborators for 2021 and in the next few days, we’ll also be revealing the exciting work of our new wave of talent via our collaborations with Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth University. It is lovely to be back!”

To ensure Illuminate is safe and enjoyable for everyone, Real Ideas will operate a timed and ticketed entry system. General Admission tickets are free to book, alongside a number of paid events and all can be found here: