Nightfall Festival - Review, Tickets & Tips

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Nightfall Festival -  Review, Tickets & Tips

What is Nightfall Festival? 

Nightfall is a family friendly light trail by Stellar Projects. The event takes place in Stewart Park in Middlesbrough on 1-4 December 2022. The theme changes every year. This year's theme is 'Brighten Our Northern Skies'. 

You can expect almost two hours of light shows, interactive elements, live music, storytelling, poetry, art work and installations based around the theme. It's playful, magical and lots of fun. The festival is super inclusive and accessible - all are welcome. 

Where Can I Get Tickets? 

Nightfall has sold out for 2022. If you're looking to visit in 2023, I highly recommend signing up to the Stellar Projects Mailing List here to access early bird tickets. Demand was huge this year and I expect it will be the same in 2023. 

There aren't any official dates for 2023 yet, but as a guide, in 2022, earlybird tickets went on sale on 22 August and general sale followed on 26 August.

Again, as a guide, in 2022 adult tickets were £12.50 and child tickets were £8.50 (age 16 and under). Children aged 2 and under were free but still required a ticket. Parking ranged from 50p - £3.50 depending on which option you selected. This places Nightfall in the 'mid-price' tier when in comes to light trails. It's not the cheapest but it's also not the most expensive. 

Top Tips for Visiting Nightfall 

Top Tips for Visiting Nightfall

  • Nightfall takes you along a one way route through Stewart Park. It's well signposted, well lit and well managed with plenty of safety stewards along the way. Our arrival time was 7pm which I imagine is peak time and at no point did I feel like it was overcrowded or like I didn't have space. There is plenty of room and it's not the kind of event where you are stood in a queue all night. 

  • Below is a map of our route. The official route is 1.6km long but for us it was 2.26 km long and took 1 hour 40 minutes including food at the end. We didn't particularly loiter around any of the exhibits and we didn't listen to the full storytelling sessions (there were two along the route) which I feel are more geared towards families with younger children. We also didn't take part in any of the crafts. 

    I would say 70 minutes is the minimum amount of time to expect to spend here and 3 hours is the maximum with most people falling somewhere in between. 

    There is a 'short cut' which is well signposted if required. There is a mix of toddlers walking and in pushchairs - I'd say go with your gut feeling but I would probably bring a pushchair with little ones and let them walk for some of it. 
Nightfall at Stewart Park Route Map

  • Try and arrive at the arrival time stated on your ticket and check live traffic conditions on google maps before you set off. If for whatever you do end up being caught in traffic, Nightfall will still allow you to attend (as long as you arrive before the last admission time of 9:15pm). You don't need to print your ticket - just show the QR code on arrival and staff will scan you in. We didn't have our bags checked. 

  • Make sure you read the email you are sent pre-event. There's lots of helpful and useful info including postcodes and directions. 

  • Nightfall ends at 11pm each evening - you can stay for as long as you like until then, there is no time limit. All cars must have vacated the car park by 11:15pm.

  • The park cafe is open for light snacks and drinks, I would say this was around 2/3 of the way around the walk. There isn't anywhere to buy a hot drink / snack at the very start,

  • The paths are fully accessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs and mostly surfaced pavements. There are accessible toilets around the route - stewards can direct you to the closest. There is a changing places toilet in the park. 

  • Relaxed sessions are available at 4pm and 4:15pm and an easy to read / relaxed pre-visit guide is available to download.

  • I was so pleased to see the live performances accompanied by BSL interpreters (available between 5pm-8pm) and an audio described tour of the event is also available.  

  • We visited on a fairly drizzly night but actually found that a lot of the route was sheltered by trees so didn't feel exposed at all. It is still best to wrap up warm with hats, gloves, thick socks, coats and scarves though. You will be outdoors for over an hour. 

  • At the end of the trail there is a marquee area with different crafts and workshops. These are included in your ticket price and looked really lovely. There were several different areas to try and I think you could probably spend around an hour in this area alone if you wanted to. 

    Complimentary craft and activity area 

  • At the end of the trail there is a courtyard with plenty of loos (and staff cleaning them) and a range of street food traders including Parm-o-rama, GBK Greek Street Food, Cook's Pizzeria, Spud Gun Loaded Fries, Flippin Fast, Barista Sisters and Flying Pigs BBQ.

    There are three bars, all of which sell alcohol and soft drinks. Mulled wine, winter cocktails and fruit shoots were also readily available. 

    All traders accept cash, contactless or card. From experience, it is easy to pay with card but I'd recommend taking some cash as a back up too just in case you run into any issues. There are veggie, GF and vegan options and kids meals too. Below are examples of prices. 

  • I did witness a few excited children run and fall over so it might be an idea for them to wear older clothes rather than their winter finest. Some children had their own torches which although not needed, is nice for them. There aren't really any super dark areas but it is a large event so you might want to pop a UV necklace / head torch similar on little kids so you can easily spot them. 

  • There isn't any merch for sale inside but I did spot some street sellers (I assume they aren't associated with the event though) outside of the park if you are walking into the event.

  • Nightfall is accessible by public transport (5 minutes from Marton Train Station and lots of buses stop outside on Ladgate Lane). You MUST pre-book event parking if you bringing a car. There are a few options including park and ride. We booked the main car park which was perfect - no queues at all and we were in and out super quickly.

#Nightfall22 Review 

First of all, I will apologise for the quality of my photos in this post. Night light photography is not my forté at all and I don't feel like these photos do the evening the proper justice it deserves. 

This was our first Nightfall experience and it started off really well with an easy to read pre-visit email being sent out with all of the info you needed about visiting. They also re-sent our tickets automatically a few days before the event which was handy. 

On the evening, eveything was well signposted as we approached and we found a pre-paid parking spot with no issues at all. 

The whole evening is relaxed and a full sensory experience. You can take things as slowly / quickly as you like. The route is one way but there were rarely any large bottle necks in the crowd and there was plenty of space for everyone. It didn't feel overcrowded at all. 

I kind of expected a 30 minute walk through park with some beuaitful lights and music but it was on a much grander scale than this. The light and sound installations were just incredible and there were lots of them. The whole event felt like extremely good value for money and I kept saying to Steve that I couldn't imagine how long everything took to set up. 

The evening felt super magical and special. This year's theme is 'Brighten Our Northern Sky' and I would definitely say they met the brief. At times we felt as if we were looking at. / walking beneath the Northern Lights.

There is loads of attention to detail and even the walks between different installations are beautifully lit. The park completely changes and I heard so many kids walking past saying they couldn't believe this was the same park they visit during the day as it had been completely transformed. 

As you walk through the trees, you are treated to a kaleidoscope of colours and sounds. It's so varied and random too yet all ties in to the theme. One minute you can be looking at a cute owl, another you can be posing for a selfie in front of a flashing heart and then making your own music in the park. 

If this all sounds a bit 'arty' for you. I promise it's not. You don't need to have a keen interest in modern art to enjoy Nightfall at all. It's lovely to just walk around and absorb it all in. I would recommend for all ages from toddlers up to grandparents. There were some well wrapped up babies there too who seemed happy and smiley and to be enjoying the lights. 

Here are a few of my highlights (this doesn't cover everything but should give you a bit of an idea of what to expect): 

Whippetville by Whippet Up 

I love this little fantasy village made up of 30 buildings which were constructed at local wellbeing sessions. I wouldn't mind movint there. 

Borealis by Dan Archer 

I actually couldn't get over this one and it's one of the installations that really isn't shown at it's best in my photos. This mesmorising piece of art is designed to recreate the magic of aurora. It can actually be seen from outside of the park and as you walk around, it changes perspective. 

At times, there is just a little bit poking through the trees where it looks like a beautiful background of Northern Lights and at others it looks like a laser show. 

I do think the best view was up close though, it felt as if we were walking under and experiencing something super magical. It was a real highlight for us. 

Teesside Skies (a collab with Borderlands CPP) and Wild Skies by Bethan Maddocks 

Absolutely beautiful. You walk alongside miniature models of some of Teesside's most iconic landmarks whilst listening to local voices and words. I think I spotted Roseberry Topping (at least that was my interpretation) that made my night. 

This leats to this beautiful rotating piece of art which I immediatly recognised as being by local artist Bethan Maddocks (you may recognise from the recent Northumberland Menagerie exhibitions). This piece of work includes some of the region's landmarks as well as the local birds who migrate here from around the world. It's captivating. 

Magic Lantern by Ian and Jo Douglas and Mark Borthwick 

As we walked past we immediatly recognised Ian's distinctive way of storytelling. Having watched him a few times, I can vouch for the fact that they're one of the best storytelling teams you will come across. Do stop and listen if you can. 

Northern Lights, Northern Lights by Bethan Maddocks 

Apologies if I have the name / artist on this one wrong, I didn't quite catch it. It was so nice to watch the magical words spin around and allowed time to pause and think. 

NYX by Gijs Van Bon 

It was super cool to watch this piece of art in action. The special machine leaves illuminated words in it's trail. For this festival, they will spell out a special poem which has been written just for the festival. Very clever and interesting. 

Halo by Illumiphonium 

This installation was lots of fun, the lights change colour and sound depending on where and when somebody touches them. Lots of group effort and audience participation to create a unique masterpiece. Great fun for kids and grown ups alike. There wasn't a wait to have a turn either. No queues is always a bonus. 

Luminous Lakeside by Lantern Company 

These beautiful illuminated lilypads, frogs and owl were a nice moment of calm in their lakeside setting. The owl was super cute. 

Valkyrie by Alison Smith and Matt Collins 

Located at the end of the trail, this piece of art is another playful and interactive element. There are 1000s of LEDs inside which are triggered to change by the voices underneath. Children had lots of fun shouting various words and watching to see what happened. 

Ping by Gijs Van Bon

This is the first art work that greets you on arrival and it's so clever. Sound travels across the 200 light beacons from one end to the next. It kind of reminds me of a rollercoaster and was really dynamic and a nice welcome into the evening. 

For the People, By the People by Whippet Up 

This was such a cute performance which was inspired by local tales and folklore. The audience get to spin a wheel and decide which story will be shared next. Expect music, puppets, humour and brilliant storytelling. 

iDeer by Greenaway & Greenaway 

This digital rewilding experience was super realistic and it was thought provoking to see these deer frolicking around the park and hiding, peeping out where you'd least expect it. 

Love IRL by Stuart Langley 

This flashing heart in the middle of the woods was certainly captivating and a popular place for visitors to stop for a photo. 

I didn't take a photo of Aqualux but you will spot it by the activity tents at the end. It represents how much water each person uses in a year at home. There are 48 containers. Our grandparents only used 3. How mad it that! 

Festival Courtyard 

I kind of feel like you get two nights out for the price of one at Nightfall. At the end of the light trail, the fun continues in the park courtyard. Lots of streetfood vendors and bars line the perimeter and there is a live band playing. 

On the evening of our visit, it was Cousin Matthew and they played covers of the Foo Fighters, Courteeners and even a rock version of Last Christmas. This space had real festival vibes with families dancing and singing together and everyone in high spirits enjoying the local food and drinks on offer. The band / music on offer changes each evening. 

You can avoid this area if you need to get home but I would recommend staying for a bit, we really enjoyed it. 

Don't miss the activity tents just behind the courtyard too. You can drop in and create some magical high quality crafts with real artists based on the art work you have enjoyed across the night. This area was undercover, nice and chilled and wasn't too busy or crowded. All materials are provided and this is a nice way to create a momento of your evening (it's all included- no additional charge). Kids do need to be accompanied by an adult. 

Why I Recommend Nightfall Festival in 2023 

Nightfall completely exceeded my expectations. It was an evening filled with magic, illusion and playfulness. I like that you can do things at your own pace and there is zero pressure to join in with anything, it's just lovely and relaxed. 

To me, it feels like you get extremely good value for money. We were there for nearly 2 hours and if we had younger children with us, probably would have stayed longer. The art installations are well thought out and of the highest quality - it's not your average set of Christmas lights. 

As stated above, it feels like you get two nights out for the price of one and it was the best evening light trail I've ever attended. 

It's also not really too Christmassy. Yes I wore my Christmas hat and ther was one Christmas song played by the band, but overall, it's an event that's more focussed on Winter than Christmas I would say. 

The organisation of the whole event was second to none, it felt really professional throughout and I felt very confident and safe as I walked around. 

This festival showcases a range of artists from across the world but also focuses on North East Artists and shines a light on them. This year, the festival commissioned new work by the following North East Artists: 

  • Bethan Maddocks
  • Howard Hannah
  • Alison Smith and Matt Collins

As well as local musicians, artists and food vendors amongst others. 

Arts Council England, Middlesbrough Borough Council. Tees Valley Combined Authority, Askham Bryon College and Middlesbrough Sports College have supported this event. 

Fancy Nightfall in 2023? Sign up here to be the first to hear ticket news. 


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