University lights up for 200th celebration

The University of Manchester ‘painted the town purple’ on Wednesday, 17 January – a brilliant pathway of light illuminating Oxford Road to mark the start of the 200th anniversary celebrations

Light Up, the first in a series of exciting bicentenary events planned throughout 2024, saw campus transformed from frosty white to resplendent purple. Iconic buildings including the Whitworth Arch and Manchester Museum glowed bright in the University’s signature colour. 

Crowds of people braved the cold to line Oxford Road for the big switch on and a special ‘Late’ event at the Museum, featuring light-filled poetry, music and more – plus a special makeover for the Museum’s famous spider crab.

At 6.24pm – 18.24 representing the University's founding year – Leader of Manchester City Council Bev Craig accompanied President and Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell for the countdown, pressing the big gold button together and setting campus awash in light.

The reception event at Engineering Building A, live streamed for audiences around the world, also included a warm welcome from Professor Rothwell, a speech from Councillor Craig on the important role the University plays within its city, and short excerpts from a specially commissioned bicentenary poem by its writer, alumna Rebecca Hurst. 

A line from Mast Year: A poem for the bicentenary of The University of Manchester – ‘I’m meant to be here’ – beamed in huge neon letters as part of an eye-catching installation across Booth Street East, where it will remain for 28 days. 

On Oxford Road, the Museum’s much-loved spider crab was ready to party – and dressed up for the occasion – following a glamorous disco makeover. The ‘disco crab’ proved a huge favourite with the crowds, many of whom posed for selfies and danced with their new decapod friend. 

Light Up Event-03

Across the road a huge projection emblazoned our distinctive ‘drum’ building, University Place. The projection shone a light on the University’s inspiring community, featuring just some of the people who have made, and continue to make, a real difference in Manchester and around the world.

At the Museum, visitors packed in to enjoy curated tours of some of its best-loved collections; family lantern-making workshops; uplifting performances and intriguing displays, such as the amazing colour-changing, sustainable concrete from Graphene Innovations Manchester

Rebecca Hurst performed a second rendition of her beautiful poem – this time in full – and another alumnus, David McFarlane, performed an incredible chromesthesia concert, in which he and his band (fellow alumni) used music to recreate the experience of sound-to-colour synaesthesia, turning sound into coloured light. 

There was also the exciting announcement of this year’s micropoetry competition from the Centre for New Writing and Creative Manchester. Its theme is ‘200 years of creativity: Manchester’s past, present and future', and entrants – perhaps feeling inspired by the night’s activities – are invited to express their creativity in no more than 280 characters for a chance to win a first prize of £500. 

Manchester is a truly global University, and the Light Up celebrations stretched across the world. In Shanghai, the University’s China Centre set the CITI Bank Tower aglow in a riot of colour – the number 200 shining out across the city. In Dubai, the Middle East Centre conducted a rousing countdown, and our South East Asia Centre in Singapore gathered current students and esteemed alumni for a jubilant reception. 

And that’s not all. The celebrations will continue in Hong Kong when a purple, illuminated tram traverses the financial and heritage areas of Hong Kong Island for three weeks, spreading news of the University’s special anniversary. 

Light Up was a global event, and fitting way to launch to a bicentenary year. Celebrating The University of Manchester’s wonderful community, past and present, near and far, in the most spectacular – and purple – way. 

Re-live the Light Up event on Wakelet

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