Fratton Big Local Festival of Light: Giant art installation is the star as Portsmouth gets ready for Lantern Parade

The SUN sculpture as seen in Blackpool (Photo: Contributed)
The SUN sculpture as seen in Blackpool (Photo: Contributed)

‘SUN’, an ambitious and unique experience created from a collaboration between astrophysicists and artists, will be unveiled at St Mary’s Church on Thursday, November 16 where visitors will be able to see breathtaking seven-metre floating model of the Sun. This, combined with an original soundscape from electroacoustic composer Ebe Oke, will provide visitors to St Mary’s with an opportunity to wonder at the beauty of our universe

It has been brought to Portsmouth by St Mary’s Church in partnership with Fratton Big Local and will be part of the 8th annual Festival of Light. It can be seen on November 16 from 7.30-9pm, and between November 17 and 22 between 5pm and 9pm

It comes ahead of the popular Lantern Parade which is taking place on Friday, November 17, leaving the Victory Business Centre at 7pm, and proceeding down Fratton Road, being lead by the Batala Portsmouth samba band. The band will also be playing under the SUN installation at 8.15pm.

Anyone wishing to make their own lantern to take part can do so but it must be battery-powered. Lanterns will be available to borrow from 6.30pm.

The parade is just one of the free events and family-friendly science talks happening under the SUN at St Mary’s Church during the installation with live music and yoga among the other offerings. There is no charge to see the SUN but there will be opportunities to make donations to help support future projects in and for the community of Fratton.

Professor Robert Walsh from the University of Central Lancashire, whose data was used, said: “You see a full representation of the sun with no computer generation. We like people to walk under SUN and experience the ‘wow’ factor.

“SUN was premiered in Autumn 2019 before lockdown, but the team have only started to take the installation on tour in 2022. We see SUN as a vehicle for people to explore and learn something new about their place in space and the connection to our closest star.’

This is not the first time St Mary’s has been home to a spectacular light installation. Over the last two years, the church has become a venue for bright new exhibitions including Where There is Light, an immersive experience reflecting on the refugee experience; Ship of the Gods, a projected tour through a mythical ship and maritime history; and another extraterrestrial exhibit in the Museum of the Moon.

Father Bob, Vicar of St Mary’s and Chair of Fratton Big Local, said: “After the amazing Museum of the Moon last year and the thousands of people who came to experience it, we are delighted that this year we have been able to welcome SUN. It has never been seen on the south coast and we are looking forward to welcoming the local community and beyond to come and enjoy the stunning installation in a beautiful space.”

For more details about the SUN events taking place in November visit the Fratton Big Local Facebook page.