Sunday Reads #2: Illuminate

19 April 2020

Welcome to our #SundayReads series, where we look back and revisit highlights from Chameleon’s programme. 

In this second issue, with great fondness, we remember Illuminate, our site-specific production which transformed Manchester Central Library through dance and movement.

Commissioned by Library Live, over two nights in November 2017, we took nearly 600 people on a journey of seven stories around Manchester Central Library in a multi-arts performance.

The sold-out event saw original music, stand-out costumes and beautiful lighting combine in each of the library spaces. The result was a truly memorable and unique experience of dance performance in a library.

Our Co-Artistic Director, Kevin Edward Turner, choreographed and directed Illuminate. Reflecting on the production, he said:

Illuminate was a real highpoint for Chameleon. It was our biggest commission to date and the largest performance we’ve ever done. There were over 100 people involved, including artists from all different disciplines, professional dancers, emerging dance artists and young people.

Everyone involved did their absolute best, there was a real buzz and feeling of excitement in the library building when we were there.  It felt like we were part of something special.  Looking back, we were, it was an amazing experience.

Illuminate also gave Company Chameleon the platform for the Manchester community to see our work. As a touring company that travels across the world, it gave us the opportunity to create something special in our home city and gave the city the opportunity to get to know us better as well.

It was also a real honour to have the opportunity to deliver a project in one of the city’s landmark’s building.  On a personal level, I have a long connection with the library.  I’ve always loved the building architecturally and as a place to go and learn. I used to go there as a boy and I visited the library regularly throughout my teens. To return years later and create Illuminate for the building, was a real personal achievement that will always make me feel proud.”


Inspired by the seven stories that underpin literature, each scene in Illuminate, told a different story and focused on a different theme.

Set outside between the proscenium arches, the first scene, ‘Overcoming the Monster’ saw an ensemble of dancers, explore the theme of overcoming one’s demons. Beautifully lit with accompanying live music, the scene saw a dramatic take-over of the library’s main entrance and presented the perfect beginning for the sited performance.

Following on, the audience journeyed inside the building to experience the library’s spaces. In every scene, the dancers responded to the shapes and architecture of the building, with stories being staged in The Shakespeare Hall, Performance Space, the Café and finally The Reading Room.

People in the audience said:

“The performance was spellbinding with excellent use of the space in an engaging and fun way.”

“I really enjoyed the atmosphere and seeing the library, especially the reading room, used with such imagination.”

“Exceptional…especially the way the performance used the building.”

Following Illuminate at Central Library, scenes from the production toured to three of Manchester’s branch libraries. Free performances took place at Longsight Library, North City Library and Wythenshawe Forum Library.

Kevin said, “It was wonderful to be able to take excerpts of the production to different communities. We performed at Manchester’s Creative Spaces Libraries in Longsight, Wythenshawe and Harpurhey, and adapted the scenes by responding to the  different spaces. The local audiences received the production with real warmth, and we ran Q&A sessions afterwards, which worked really well.  Illuminate was a fantastic project and has created a memory that everyone at Chameleon will treasure forever.”

Thanks for reading. To finish, why not take a few minutes to watch the short film below. Made by Ben Williams, the film captures the feel and spirit of Illuminate, we hope you enjoy it. Until next week, stay safe.

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"10 was such a wonderful experience - I cant wait to see more of your incredible work!" "Effortless grace, strength, humour and athleticism - a visual treat!" "We brought 65 young people to your performance tonight - every single one loved it! What an amazing show!" "This show reminded me why I dance and what I’m constantly working towards! Thank you for this experience!" "Such beauty in the small moments of this show - please don't stop doing what you’re doing"

Thank you to everyone who comes to watch us perform and for all your wonderful comments and feedback!