5 minutes with… the artist behind BEAM Light Festival, James Bawn
Last updated Mar 13, 2024

BEAM is a brand-new event for 2024 by Harrogate International Festivals. The Stray Ferret spotlights James Bawn, the man behind the event that’s lighting up Harrogate this weekend.

You’ve worked in events for more than 20 years; can you tell me a bit more about your background?

Lighting design has always been a passion of mine, even from a very young age where I took charge of after-school productions or local lighting events. I’ve been fortunate to work with many talented people within the industry, and you can always take inspiration from both the most complex of installations, or indeed, the simplest, purest form of light. The latter can quite often deliver the most dynamic impact.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

Great question. I call it the ‘The Gig Buzz’. The moment the doors open, or the sun sets, and the crowd finally gets a chance to view and (hopefully) enjoy my work, that is what gives me a real spike of adrenaline; it never leaves or wears away.

The lighting beams and projections will animate Harrogate’s most famous buildings this weekend from March 15-16, how did you select these?

Harrogate is a wonderful town with impressive architecture; it’s a fabulous canvas for any artist or creative. Choosing the final locations was in fact one of the hardest parts of this event. If allowed, I’d have covered the entire town in glistening photons of light, but I had to obviously consider the realities and logistical timescales in delivering the project across multiple sites. I’m grateful to the Harrogate International Festivals team in making it a reality and reining me in when necessary.

(Image: a map of where you can see the lights)

Can you tell me a bit about the soundscapes?

They are pieces of composition which I have chosen to complement the lighting design in two of the locations. The lighting is key, but the music adds an extra dynamic which will really help with the narrative.

In your opinion, why have lighting installations become more popular in recent years?

I think there are several factors. One of the biggest influences from my side is the advancement in technology; we can deploy LED fixtures and beam lights in a very short timeframe. This has had an overall impact on the lighting industry as it means more outdoor-based entertainment-style fixtures can be produced efficiently. It has huge benefits and makes large-scale installations more accessible for a whole new range of clients and event organisers.

Another big factor is that light installations provide an opportunity for social bonding within the community, for local families to get together as well provide local businesses with more footfall. The sense of excitement, mystique and a general happy buzz that lighting festivals create is wonderful.

Growing up in Yorkshire, who inspired you most?

I’m very fortunate that my parents introduced me to the world of the creative arts through theatre and my dad was a professional musician, so I was always exposed to music, light and art exhibitions. They literally carved out my career path without knowing it!

I’ve also been fortunate to work with many local talented creative artists over the years including David Blackburn and Patrick O’Mahony but Yorkshire is an absolute hotbed of creative talent and I for one am very proud of my county.

BEAM Light Festival, free, from dusk until 10pm, March 15-16, venues across town – click here for the map of where you can see the lights and for more the information, click here

Main image: photography credit, Richard Maude

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