Lumiere clock to be a permanent feature in Durham city centre

The popular Helvetictoc art installation will beam timely reminders up on to the wall of Clayport Library in Millennium Place, Durham

Artist Tobie Langel with his work Helvetictoc
Artist Tobie Langel with his work Helvetictoc

A highlight of Durham’s Lumiere festival has become a permanent fixture of the city centre.

The popular Helvetictoc art installation will beam timely reminders up on to the wall of Clayport Library in Millennium Place.

Created by Tobie Langel, the installation uses words instead of a traditional clock face and is intended as a playful tribute to life before smartphones, when people thought nothing of asking someone else the time.

The piece was a hit with visitors to the world-class Lumiere festival of light, which returned to Durham for the third time in November, and now will have pride of place in the city centre.

It also celebrates a year of culture in County Durham which brought £30m into the local economy with a series of events, including Brass: Durham International Festival, Durham Book Festival, The Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition and Bishop Auckland Food Festival.

The Durham-based Banks Group is funding Helvetictoc’s permanent fixture with a £10,000 grant, while Durham County Council, which commissioned events company Artichoke for Lumiere, will maintain it.


Coun Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, was at the handover of the installation at the Gala Theatre. He said: “Helvetictoc has amused the crowds as part of the world-class Lumiere light festival twice now and I am delighted it will become a timely reminder of the importance of art and culture in County Durham.

“It is charming in its simplicity, practical in its message and a really fitting permanent addition to Millennium Place.

“As a council we remain committed to a rich programme of cultural events which we know deliver much-needed economic benefits to businesses and make our county a better place to live, work and visit.”

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at Banks, said: “Helvetictoc is an exciting addition to Durham’s thriving cultural and tourism landscape, as well as something that residents can enjoy every day. As a local business, we’re very pleased to be funding this lasting reminder of the success of the Lumiere festivals.”

Helen Marriage, Director of Artichoke, said: “For us it’s really wonderful to see one of our commissions for the Lumiere festival becoming a permanent part of the Durham urban landscape. Artichoke believes in the power of art to transform public space by changing how it looks and public expectations.

“Tobie Langel’s Helvetictoc is a perfect addition to Durham’s most contemporary architecture, and we’re really delighted that the Banks Group and Durham County Council have had the vision to commission it as a permanent part of the city’s life.”


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