Illuminations: The Enchanted Forest and Night in the Garden

Two festivals set to light up the autumn nights in Faskally Wood and Edinburgh's Botanical Gardens

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Illuminations: The Enchanted Forest and Night in the Garden

Photo: Graham Smith

As The Enchanted Forest gears up for its 14th year of lighting up Pitlochry, David Pollock finds that Edinburgh is also preparing for some nocturnal drama this autumn

For over a decade now, Faskally Wood has been drawing visitors from far and wide to see it spectacularly lit up and transformed into The Enchanted Forest. Even after Forestry Commission Scotland decided to stop putting on the event, a group of locals took it over in 2009. Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden is hoping to emulate their success as it inaugurates its own outdoor lighting festival, Night in the Garden.

‘We’ve tried very hard to approach this as an art project,’ says Malcolm Innes, joint lighting designer of Night in the Garden alongside Euan Winton. Both are Design and Digital Arts lecturers at Napier University which is working on the project with support from the Scottish Funding Council. ‘It’s quite common for these events to be spectacles filled with flashy things. There will be elements of that, but this will be slightly more sober; we want it to work on lots of levels and lots of scales.’

The project has been long in the devising. ‘This is something the Botanics has been considering for a number of years,’ says Heather Jackson, director of enterprise at the Royal Botanic Garden. ‘We came up with this idea from visitor comments about the possibility of accessing the garden in the evenings. We want to give audiences the opportunity to see it from a completely different perspective.’

There’s a similar motivation occurring further north in Pitlochry. ‘We present the Scottish woodland landscape in a new and exciting way,’ says Derek Allan, The Enchanted Forest’s producer and creative director. ‘Moreover, it’s quite a magical experience going into a forest after dark. It’s not something people do every day, if at all.’

Night in the Garden’s purpose is partly to highlight (literally) much of the work the Botanics does in conservation, says Innes. ‘It’s one of the few places in the city where you can get a sense of true darkness. Although this is a light trail, what goes with that is darkness, and it’s about giving people a chance to experience that. It’s about dark, it’s about light, it’s about shadow and it’s about revealing these things that ambient light washes away. Then you can pick what you want to show people out of the dark.’

The Enchanted Forest is in a different stage of its life than Night in the Garden, with Allan proudly pointing out that most of the available outdoor lights in Scotland are used to illuminate a natural amphitheatre with a stunning effect which has already seen the organisers asked to consider similar events in Canada, Wales, Ireland and Russia. ‘There have been son et lumière shows around the world for decades,’ he says. ‘Some focus on building-based urban light shows, some are primarily about technology, using video projection, digital mapping and so on. The Enchanted Forest is different in that it merges technology, art, sound and music in an amazing setting.’

The annual theme is different, he says, and this will be the first time that live performers have been used. ‘One element that’s important in these events is darkness, which means they’re always going to be in the winter months if you want to be able to run them at a reasonable time of the evening. That’s a challenge when you’re talking about electronics out in the cold and wet – but there is something very magical about the forest in the autumn.’

The Enchanted Forest, Pitlochry, Fri 3--Sun 26 Oct; Night in the Garden, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Thu 30 Oct--Sun 23 Nov.

The Enchanted Forest

A stunning sound and light show that transforms Faskally Wood using dazzling visuals and innovative design set against an original music score.

Botanic Lights

Follow a trail of light through the Botanic Garden and see it illuminated.

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