Public Events 2015/2016

Light Night 2015: Illuminating the Middle Ages
Friday, 9 October 2015 | 18.00-21.00 | Parkinson Court

Brotherton Collection MS 7 fol. 37v

Organised by the LUU Medieval Society, Institute for Medieval Studies, Leeds International Medieval Congress, and Commercial & Campus Support Services, University of Leeds

The Middle Ages are often characterised as dark, dirty and smelly, but the darkness made the moments of brightness more dazzling. Immerse yourself in the sensations of the medieval period: run your hands along the chalky smoothness of parchment, let the warm tang of gingerbread linger on your tongue, and experience the sharp contrast between darkness and light in a medieval shrine.

About Light Night

Light Night - Leeds is an annual ​multi-arts and light festival which takes over Leeds City Centre on one Friday night in October. At this year's event, Leeds International Medieval Congress, LUU Medieval Society, and the Institute for Medieval Studies presented 'Illuminating the Middle Ages', where over 600 Light Night revelers visiting Parkinson Court had the chance to learn about aspects of medieval life.

Illuminations: Projection Map

Projection Map in Parkinson Court

A highlight of the event was the digital projection map of manuscript images in the Parkinson Court, at the size of 4m x 14m. This was inspired by medieval church wall painting. The scenes depicted on medieval church walls would often have reflected the activities taking place in the church building, as well as invoking the Heavenly Kingdom, and so the images for the projection map were chosen to mirror the activities being offered in the hall below: they included scenes of medieval crafts, saints, food, heraldry and medicine, amongst other topics. The projection map was compiled from manuscript images provided by the Leeds University Library Special Collections and the British Library. The images were compiled and curated by Paul Turner (alumnus of the School of Physics, University of Leeds), while the projection was installed and operated by projectionist and artist Dave Lynch, with Paul Turner’s assistance on the night.

Stalls & Activities

  • Natalie Anderson offered visitors a chance to design their own coat of arms utilising the rules of medieval heraldry. With blank shield templates and coloured pencils were available, guests could use to create a design of their own choosing, based on the most common medieval heraldic images, symbols, and patterns. Or they could leave it to fate and roll a set of dice which, based on a numbering system, would randomly generate a coat of arms.
  • Sunny Harrison presented medieval attitudes towards health, illness and the body (both human and animal) via a 'Know your temperament!' quiz. By deciding which of a series of (slightly leading) statements best described their personality, guests were ascribed their humoural temper. They were then told which ailments they would likely suffer from, and given medieval prescriptions, from medicines to votive offerings to St Eloi.
  • Emily Keyes introduced the yarn art of weaving. Inspired by an image from London, British Library, MS Royal 16 G V f. 21v showing Arachne at her loom, visitors had the chance to construct small looms of cardboard and thread, weaving patterns to make small, coaster-sized creations, simulating medieval weaving. Visitors could take their samples home with them as a momento of the event.
  • Alyx Mattison provided members of the public with the opportunity to try their hand at medieval board games, from early Scandinavian strategy games to late medieval German betting games, some of which are still played today. Regional varieties of Chess, for example, were based on contemporary military strategy, and the Game of the Goose may actually represent the pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. The main aim was just to provide the public with a bit of competitive fun.
  • Katherine Miller read the Prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales ('Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote...') with Middle English pronunciation, and the audience was encouraged to try pronouncing this text for themselves and to relate language changes (such as the Great Vowel Shift: toon army was a great favourite) to modern dialectal differences between northern and southern England and their own experience of those differences.
  • Joanna Phillips designed a display of seasonal fruit and vegetables eaten in the Middle Ages, showing how food and eating in the past were much more connected to the seasons than our modern reliance on supermarkets allows. As much as possible was foraged from the University of Leeds campus, including rosehips, haw berries, three different varieties of apple, sloes, medlars, and quinces. The display also included foods which were not available in the Middle Ages, such as potatoes, tomatoes and squash, in order to encourage people to think about the origins of the food we eat.
  • Alannah Santra created a scriptorium focused on manuscript illumination and the processes involved in making manuscripts in the Middle Ages, encouraging the visitors to talk about parchment as a product, and interact with real parchment.. Visitors were invited to illuminate their own initials with pens and pencils, inspired by templates and examples from medieval manuscripts.


Entrance to the event Light in the medieval shrine
Facsimiles of manuscripts Parkinson Court
Serving medieval food samples The Scriptorium
Medieval board games Medieval food display
Ann and Tracy, Campus Support Services Parkinson Court overview
View more photos on the Facebook album.


IMS Medieval Recipe Book
Light Night 2015 Official Brochure


'Illuminating the Middle Ages' was co-ordinated by Rose Sawyer, LUU Medieval Society, with the help of Axel Müller, Audrey Thorstad, and D. Esther Kim, as well as the stall leaders listed above. Further thanks to volunteers Francesca Petrizzo, Vanessa Wright, and Rachael Gillibrand, the Workshop Theatre, as well as Ann and Tracy from the University of Leeds Campus Support Services.
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