Acts of Radical Imagination 1: Lucid Creates

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Acts of Radical Imagination 1: Lucid Creates

‘BY TURNING GREY DULL BUILDINGS INTO BRIGHT, COLOURFUL BEACONS OF HOPE – WE WANT PEOPLE TO SEE THE IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORTING THE ARTS AND CREATIVITY, AND THE ROLE IT PLAYS IN IMAGINING A BETTER FUTURE.’

In the first of our Acts of Radical Imagination blog post series, we’ve been speaking to Chris Carr, founding director of Sittingbourne based design and fabrication studio LUCID CREATES who have recently become regular contributors to our cultural offer here in Medway.

Since 2010 Lucid Creates has created installations for cities and spaces across the world including: Glastonbury Festival, Creamfields, Leeds Festival, Parklife, Soho House, Vivid Sydney, Wembley, Culture Liverpool, Pacha, Festival Republic, BST Hyde Park, Live Nation, Broadwick Live, Manchester International Festival, Adidas and many more.  

PIXELS, their largest public art installation to date, took over Mountbatten House, a towering disused office block that dominates Chatham town centre as the feature piece for Medway Light Nights 2023.

“Mountbatten House is an icon of the local area and means a number of different things to a number of different people. It feels impossible to be indifferent about the building due to the sheer size of it and how it commands the skyline. It’s difficult to look at an empty building of that scale and not feel some kind of emotion, whether that’s negative or whether like us, you find beauty in what most people would deem ‘ugly’.”

The installation saw the Pentagon Centre completely transformed into a beacon of light – visible from all over Chatham and the Medway towns. The iconic wall of windows of Mountbatten house were illuminated from within, with each of the 208 windows being used as a single pixel within a giant low res video screen. The animation displayed a mesmerising visual show which moved across the building. PIXELS is a message of joy and hope, vast in scale – illuminating both the town centre and the river.

The building itself has inspired us – its history within the area, its cultural significance, its shape and size. We could see its potential. As artists, it is incredibly exciting to have been given both a canvas and platform of this scale.”

“Our aim is to share both the inspiration and the excitement the building has given us through art that is accessible for everyone. We want to encourage people to view their environment differently – to think about the possibilities of the places and spaces they interact with, outside of their obvious uses.”

The purpose of PIXELS is to show people how art can completely transform places and how culture can reimagine skylines, towns and entire cities. By turning grey, dull buildings into bright, colourful beacons of hope – we want people to see the importance of supporting the arts and creativity, and the role it plays in imagining a better future.


It was a last hurrah for Mountbatten House as we know it, it is currently undergoing refurbishment as part of Medway Council’s transformative regeneration project for Chatham.

OUR QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS

Festivals are at the core of Medway’s cultural offer. What is it that inspires you about working in the live events sector?

Our aim is to change people’s perceptions of what’s possible within the physical spaces and environments they interact with and inhabit. Really pushing the boundaries when it comes to shows and spatial design underpins all of our work. Every time we create something we want it to be completely different from what audiences have experienced before and expect  – whether that’s a festival stage, an art installation or working with global brands, that’s what drives us. Working within the live events sector means we are able to work at a scale that isn’t always possible in other sectors, giving us the opportunity to bring our crazy ideas to life, which is always really exciting.

How do you tackle the challenges of working sustainably?

We are addressing the negative impact of disposable design and festival infrastructure and sustainability is at the core of our designs.

We don’t build disposable, single-use structures and have developed a unique, patented system of modular steel frames and brackets that can be used for years. This system allows us to build reusable structures with minimal environmental impact and longevity. 

You make extraordinary work all over the place, what’s inspiring you about sharing your work in Medway right now?

We are very fortunate that Medway is on our doorstep, the cultural strategy and ambition within Medway is rare and we can see how much of a positive impact this is having within the area. This level of ambition is illustrated incredibly well with commissions of large scale pieces such as PIXELS. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact that public art and the creative industry has on transforming places and how people feel about them. We’re looking forward to seeing what the results of this are. I was born in Chatham and Lucid is based in Sittingbourne, we have a genuine interest and are invested in the area and its future. 

You seem to work with an incredible range of collaborators from fabricators to coders, composers and animators, what do you think the prospects are for young people curious about having a career in your field?

There are so many hidden roles within the events and arts sector and there are some amazing projects and opportunities out there but they can be hard to find, especially for those growing up outside of major cities but the prospects are there. When Covid hit people sought security in jobs outside of the creative industries so we lost a lot of the workforce then. There is still a shortfall of makers and creatives, there has never been a better time to start a career in the creative industries. 

What skills and training do you want to see developed that would support your company to continue making such future facing work?

For us multi-skilled people are always extremely important, as mentioned above our work sits across a huge range of skills and practices – structural engineering, design, visual art, fabrication, tech, rigging, lighting, sound, H&S, event management, logistics – the list goes on. Knowledge and understanding of the wider field you are operating within before deciding to specialise is always super helpful. 

I started putting on shows in uni, and my degree was in creative event design – the practical, hands-on experience alongside my degree meant I had a really good foundation that I was able to build upon over the years. And, of course, problem solving is a big one – the projects we undertake do not come without their challenges and every new project is a huge learning process for all of us. The key thing is that people are willing to learn and are passionate about what they are doing.

Did you imagine you would do this as a job? What’s your background and training?

I had always wanted to work within the live event industry and was lucky enough to progress from theatre design at A levels to study a degree in creative events design at the University of Kent. Unfortunately, the course is no longer running but it was a perfect combination of arts and events and had only been running for one year prior to my first year there so we had lots of freedom to shape what we were doing. The work we do now definitely feels like a natural progression from my training and background – although the scale on which we are doing it does take me by surprise from time to time!

What advice would you give your younger self if you were starting out now?

The key bit of advice would be to just keep going, push past the hardships and that no idea is too big. The creative industries are not always easy but it is always worth it if you love what you do. 

What do you want to imagine that Medway looks and feels like as a place to live and work in 2030?

I would hope that Medway has become a cultural hub with a varied independent high street and a strong programme of events that entices younger creatives to the area.

PIXELS
Site specific art installation by Lucid Creates
Chatham, Kent UK Feb 2023 
Commissioned by Medway Council as part of Medway Light Nights

Huge thank you to Paul Cowell FRSA and Medway Council for trusting us with a piece of this scale
Event Produced by Emergency Exit Arts
Animation created in collaboration with Zak Norman / Black Box Echo 
Captured by Palladian Media
Audio Pensees

You can see a further selection of their work here

Lucid Creates – A design & fabrication studio specialising in making extraordinary temporary environments.

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