I had the opprtunity to visit the Lumiere Durham 2015 festival on its opening night, the UK’s largest light festival. It was a fantastic event, extremely well produced by the Artichoke Trust and Durham County Council. The exhibits were beautiful, it wasn’t too crowded (they have learnt from the first few Lumiere events!) and there were plenty of staff on hand to help out and coffee shops/pop up eating places to keep the children happy.

The biggest disappointment for me was the event programme. Don’t get me wrong, the content was excellent, it described each exhibit and there was an good map showing where the exhibits were roughly located around the city. The problem was it was too dark to read the content, the map soon got worn out through folding, wet weather and being put in my pocket. At each exhibit we kept saying how we wished we could read the background to understand what was being displayed.

I think the organisers missed a trick here by not having an event app for visitors. It could have contained a map of all the exhibits and used the smartphone GPS to show your current location. Each exhibit could have been described – very readable on a smartphone screen in the dark. I was constantly using my phone to take pictures and videos of the event and it would have been natural to have used an event app to guide me around.

Before the Lumiere event I was actually able to attend a preview presentation organised by Durham Business Club. I asked the Artichoke producer why there wasn’t an event app for visitors. She mentioned that there was plenty of information available on the website and that they didn’t think an app would work as with so many people (and some indoor exhibits) there would be connectivity issues.

This is a common misconception – native smartphone apps don’t need to be online all of the time or even online at all depending on the situation. This could be the case for an event app. The maps could be specifically designed for the event and preloaded, making use of the inbuilt GPS to show position. The content would all come installed with the app. Walking around last night I would not have needed any internet connectivity to have had an enhanced experience with a Lumiere Durham event app.