Last night I stepped out of the warmth of my home and physically froze my fingers off to experience the Magical Lantern Festival, in residence at Chiswick House in west London.
My fingers have since recovered, and I tell you what, it was worth it! I had a amazing, magical, awe inspiring evening out (and when you go, you’ll heed my warning and wrap up warm). Chiswick house is the ideal setting to host this simply ginormous collection of intricate Chinese lanterns. And I’m not talking about the kind of lanterns you set a little tea light under and release into the sky, no. These mammoth creations of silk, wire and lights are works of art that take hundreds of hours to create, sharing larger than life scenes that artistically explore the Silk Road, a poignant subject for a Chinese Lantern Festival in London, as the Silk Road was the major connector between East and West for trade and culture dating back to the Han Dynasty, 206 BC.
Trade routes may have changed, and the Silk Road all but faded into myth and legend, but the stories, exports and beauty of the east still captivate us, with the lantern subjects cover everything from a towering bottle of Oyster Sauce, to a life sized scene from Aladdin, complete with genie spurting forth from the lamp and Princess Jasmine being wooed on a magic carpet by street rat Aladdin.
The Chinese pagoda pavilion that greets you on arrival is a sizeable monument also, its hard to believe it’s just a lantern. Meanwhile my personal favourite was the life sized ship, floating over the frozen lake (yes! Frozen! It’s cold, very cold), ensconced in a sea of lilies. I could go on at some length telling you of the beauty of the creations you’ll find there, but it wouldn’t be fair, you really should go and see it for yourself! And take friends, there is warmth in numbers!
Aside from the obvious attractions, there is also a great selection of foodie treats across the stalls on site, including Beltane and Pop, the Marshmallowist (toasted marshmallow fire-side warmth, yes please!), Lemon Jelli, Simply Duck, Cattle Axe, and our personal favourite of the night, Notso – festival foodies bringing east-mets-west staples like Katsu Curry, spring rolls and five spice fries. If you go, be sure to pop by and say hello from us to Charlie and Charlie who seem to run the show and stole our hearts just a little bit (men who can feed you well when you are frozen solid are winners by all accounts).
There’s also an ice rink installation, a fun fair, and the Eis Haus Ice bar is in residence, worth a visit, because hell, you’re cold anyway, whats another 9 degrees into the negative? Danny, thank you for showing us such a freezing good time!
Worth noting the disabled access seemed really good for this kind of event, the facilities were a plenty, and there are lots of socialising areas. It’s an event for the family too, welcoming guests 5 years old and up and offering family tickets. The nearest transport links are Turnham Green, Gunnersbury and Chiswick overground. Chiswick House is roughy a 10 – 15 minute walk from any of these.
The Magical Lantern Festival is at the Chiswick House Gardens until the 26th of February. Tickets £16.50 for an adult, available here http://www.magicallantern.uk/tickets-london/