Messages of friendship from schoolchildren across the globe will be included within a special light installation symbolising the importance of international co-operation.
As part of the tenth anniversary edition of Lumiere, Durham County Council has commissioned local artist Mick Stephenson to create a new piece of artwork titled Friendship Tree.
From its branches will hang more than 2,000 recycled plastic bottles containing messages and illustrations by youngsters from County Durham and beyond.
Commissioned by the council and produced by leading arts company Artichoke, Lumiere is the UK’s largest light festival and takes place in Durham from 14 to 17 November.
Friendship Tree, which will be lit up as part of the festival programme, is among a number of community outreach projects taking place this year.
Mr Stephenson and the council’s international relations team are working with five schools in the county, which have all been partnered with schools in other countries.
These are: Parkside Academy, Willington, and its partner school in Tübingen, Germany; Crook Primary School and its partner schools in Tanzania and Zimbabwe; Langley Moor Primary School and its partner school in France; Consett Infant School and its partner school in Nepal; and Wearhead Primary School and its partner school in Spain.
Messages are also expected from children in Bangladesh, Russia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, the United States, Japan and Italy, along with international students at Durham University. This will ensure all continents are represented.
Cllr Joy Allen, cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism at Durham County Council, said: “I can’t wait to see the Friendship Tree illuminated at Lumiere this November.
“The festival attracts international attention and has strengthened County Durham’s reputation for staging world-class events.
“What better way to celebrate this than by bringing young people from all over the world together in such a creative and meaningful way.”
“The fact the Friendship Tree uses recycled materials should also be celebrated as it raises awareness of the need to reduce and wherever possible stop our use of single-use plastics.”
The project was officially launched at Wearhead Primary School, where Durham County Council’s Chairman Cllr Katie Corrigan and the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham Sue Snowdon joined youngsters for a creative workshop. A similar workshop took place at the partner school in Spain at the same time.
Cllr Corrigan and Mrs Snowdon produced their own messages for the tree and chatted to the children and the artist about the project.
“It was an absolute pleasure to attend the workshop,” said Cllr Corrigan.
“It is so important children in County Durham grow up to become global citizens with respect for other cultures and beliefs.
“Projects like this are brilliant because they forge friendships and promote the importance of compassion, unity and understanding, which are vital for a peaceful future.”
This year, is a year of culture in Durham. #Durham19 is a campaign by Durham County Council, Visit County Durham and other key partners to celebrate and promote the unprecedented number of festivals and events taking place.
Lumiere is a major part of the county’s cultural offer. Visitors can look forward to dazzling large-scale light projections, interactive creations and mind-blowing installations by leading local and international artists, with the full programme to be revealed in October.