Barnsley Museums at Barnsley Bright Nights

Barnsley Bright Nights always adds a sparkle to the festive season in Barnsley. Here at Barnsley Museums we love taking part in this fantastic three-day family festival, based around the theme of light, and this year was no different, with events taking place in our venues across the borough. Along with other community partners we joined in with the stunning Saturday night lantern parade, and enjoyed the other creative installations across the town centre. Devinia Skirrow, our marketing manager tells us more.

As ever, Barnsley Bright Nights was an amazing weekend where Barnsley came together to celebrate our cultural and creative side in spectacular style. In the town centre there was something to see and do at every turn, starting with the Christmas Light Switch on in The Glass Works Square on the Thursday evening. The Light Art Trail led visitors around the town centre featuring sculptures, art installations, activities and a Christmas Tree Festival at St. Mary’s Church. Light installations were open to the public in venues across the town centre, including Barnsley College and Barnsley Libraries @ the Lightbox.

In the garden of the Cooper Gallery visitors encountered an exhibition of intricate glass sculptures. These were part of ‘Brains in a Dish’ which features artwork and projections to illuminate our understanding of the brain, and celebrates recent breakthroughs in dementia research by Barnsley-born Professor Selina Wray, in collaboration with artist Charlie Murphy. Hundreds of families visited the Gallery to take part in creative science-based activities as part of the event.

Child taking part in science themed activities at the Cooper Art Gallery. The child is sitting at a table with test tubes full of glitter in a rack in front of him. there is art work on the wall behind.
Science based family activities at the Cooper Gallery

At Barnsley Museums @ The Glassworks, youngsters got hands-on creating mini ‘stained glass’ windows using transparent Lego® to form part of a large-scale illuminated artwork. Colour Foundry took over the Digital space and ran a series of family workshops using drawing and hands-on tech based activities to develop cinematic backgrounds, nature inspired characters, and an accompanying soundtrack. The installation included an interactive AR window display, a 270 degree three-wall animated projection and AR triggered images.

Photos of children taking part in activities in the Barnsley Museums @ the Glassworks digital space with positive feedback from one of the participants

Elsecar Heritage Centre hosted the first ever Barnsley Bright Nights Fringe Festival! At ‘mini melts’ families got the chance to have a go at glass blowing, in a nod to Barnsley’s proud glass making heritage. This event was hugely popular with visitors of all ages. All the impressive glass creations have been installed at the Cooper Gallery to create a wonderful installation linking to the ‘Brains in a Dish’ exhibition.

Volunteer having a go at glass blowing at Elsecar Heritage Centre. They are sitting in a metal chair with heat proof gloves and safety goggles on, holding a small black pan full of molten glass. The workshop leader is standing next to them with a glass blowing tube in their hands. They are putting the tube into the molten glass.
The mini melts glass blowing activities at Elsecar were really popular – everybody was keen to have a go

A real highlight of the weekend was the community lantern parade on Saturday night, which featured numerous community groups, including our very own Feels Like Home group, alongside multiple artists and performers. The Eldon Street High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) took part with their mythical ‘Eldon Beast’. Working in partnership with Fusion, Barnsley’s Cultural Educational Partnership, the HSHAZ commissioned artist Sue Walpole from Hand Made Parade to work with pupils from Trinity Academy St. Edwards to create a stunning, illuminated puppet of a mythical beast for Eldon Street. It was designed by the young people, inspired by stories of the Natural History museum that used to stand on Eldon Street on the top floor of the Civic. Part rabbit, part goat, part tiger, part dragon and part slug, it really was a sight to behold.

Eldon Beast puppet surrounded by crowds of people on Eldon Street. Lots of people are taking photographs. The beast is a large illuminated puppet with a rabbit's head, a tiger's tail, slug horns and wings. It is held above head height on poles and operated by four people standing underneath. It looks like it is flying.
Eldon Beast in the parade on Eldon Street (photo by James Mulkeen)

Thousands of people gathered to watch the parade, which travelled along Eldon Street, from Mandela Gardens to the Glassworks Square. The beast stopped to interact with members of the public along the way, as well as shining a light on some of Eldon Street’s amazing historic buildings and more forgotten spaces.

The Eldon Beast meeting families outside Barnsley Museums @ The Glassworks (photo by James Mulkeen)

The young people and teachers from the school accompanied the beast with lanterns they had made. The parade also featured members of our own Feels Like Home group with their beautiful, illuminated flowers, and groups from the Civic and RSPB Old Moor, who brought more illuminated puppets to join the party.

Group of people (adults and children) holding large colourful, illuminated flowers. There is a dog with the group with led lights around its collar. A sign in front of the group says 'Feels Like Home'
Feels Like Home group preparing for the parade

The HSHAZ also installed a trail of alternative heritage plaques ‘the secret blues of Eldon Street’ for the Brights Nights weekend. The plaques were designed by students from Horizon College and tell some of the forgotten stories of Eldon Street. The students visited Barnsley Archives to find stories, as well as talking to project staff and members of the Barnsley Civic Trust. The 14 plaques were individually illuminated. Some were hosted in shop windows, with others attached to buildings on Eldon Street and the Victorian Arcade.

Blue plaque in a shop window. The text says 'Raynor's Cafe home to the legendary Raynor's Pie. For our starvin' stomachs, a re'y't good treat.' Text underneath says created by year 8 students from Horizon College.
Alternative blue plaque remembering the legendary Raynor’s cafe in the Victorian Arcade, famous for their hot meat pies. Part of the Secret Blues of Eldon Street trail.

The fantastic three-day festival brought light and cheer to everyone who visited, and we can’t wait for its return next year! Huge thanks to the Barnsley Council Arts & Events Team, who organise the event every year and do an amazing job. No wonder they’ve just been awarded Local Authority events team of the year at the National Outdoor Events Awards!

To find out more about Barnsley Museums and the Eldon Street Heritage Action Zone visit