Lights of Christmas a beacon of hope during difficult year

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Mary Benn and Giles Westley of AGB Events looking over the animations that will form the basis of the Lights of Christmas display. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Mary Benn and Giles Westley of AGB Events looking over the animations that will form the basis of the Lights of Christmas display. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Light has been a beacon of peace and hope during a year of international turmoil, says the creative director behind the annual Lights of Christmas at St Mary’s Cathedral.

Anthony Bastic, principal and creative director of AGB Events, the creative team responsible for the festive light show, said the annual event is an opportunity to reflect on the past year.

“This hard been a hard year for the world,” he said.

“The first thing you see when these terrible tragedies happen is that people light candles, it’s the first thing they do.

“They are bringing light into those dreadful situations. It is a beacon of peace and hope.”

Now in its sixth year, the Lights of Christmas 2015, presented by PAYCE, will focus on three themes, including ‘light is life’.

“What I wanted to do is acknowledge the role of light in our lives,” he said. “It is fundamental to our existence.”

The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 was launched in Paris in January as a global initiative adopted by the United Nations to raise awareness of the scientific applications of light and its importance to humankind.

Anthony’s team of “very talented animators” has created a segment just for children, inspired by the traditional Christmas carol The Holly and the Ivy.

“This song has a beautiful melody, and the scenes the animators have created are just stunning,” he said.

“We’re very mindful that Christmas brings out the child in us all.”

The final segment features the Madonna and Child.

“This year we have looked at how different artists over the years have included the haloes around Mary and Jesus, and we have slightly animated those haloes.”

While the light show has religious themes, it has universal appeal, Anthony said.

“We look at the Catholic cathedral in the true sense of the word – that we are universal.

“We create this event which should appeal to everybody.”

The contrast of the dazzling lights against Sydney’s night sky draws in crowds of thousands.

“You almost forget where you are … it just gives people time to stop,” Anthony said.

“The whole notion of the creative concept was to have a place where people could come and celebrate the meaning of Christmas together, away from the hustle and bustle of the season.”

As projector technology develops, so, too, does the creative reach of Anthony’s team.

“For our team, the technical is as important as the creative,” he said.

“It sets us new challenges each year, as we find new advances in the technology, it offers us a new way to create the concepts.”

The progression from 26,000-lumen projectors to 40,000 lumens “opened up a whole new raft of creative possibilities for us”.

Following the launch of the Lights of Christmas, Anthony’s team will travel to Boston where they will unveil a light show on Boston Public Library.

“We’re very excited to be able to take our creativity to the US,” he said.

The “holiday-themed” American showcase will include nods to The Nutcracker as well as New England’s whaling past.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, will officially switch on the Lights of Christmas in at 7.30pm on 10 December, accompanied by a performance of The Holly and the Ivy sung by The Voice contestant Naomi Price and backed by an orchestra.

The annual Lights of Christmas event is presented by Payce in conjunction with Australian Catholic University, Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria and Catholic Super.